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Why Is It Hard to Forgive?

As Christians we are called to be people of forgiveness.  Every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer we say, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  We acknowledge our need to be forgiven and we pledge to offer the same to others.

Yet we find forgiving others (and ourselves) can be a challenge, especially when the same person keeps offending us in the same way over and over.  In today’s gospel (8/16/18 – Thursday of 19th Week in Ordinary Time), Peter offers to forgive as many as seven times.  He probably feels pretty good about this as old Hebrew texts refer to forgiving three times.  Is Jesus impressed?  No, he replies, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times.”

Wow!  That’s a lot but think about it, how many times have you asked God to forgive you?  If you want to be forgiven so many times, shouldn’t you offer the same to others?

What does it mean to forgive?  Often people think it means forgetting.  With the little things I think part of forgiving can be forgetting.  It isn’t worth remembering.  On the other hard, “the big things” might seem too big to forget.  The hurt is too much.

Forgiving is not about making amends.  We need to make amends wherever possible but forgiveness really becomes important when amends can’t be made.  We see that in today’s gospel.  Forgiveness really becomes very important when we have been hurt.

When we have been hurt, we want to put all the blame and responsibility on the other person.  (I’ll throw in here that we must always consider if we have some responsibility for what has happened).  We think it is for them to beg for our forgiveness.  That would make us feel justified for the way we feel.

While we may never forget, forgiveness does mean letting go of the hurt.  Otherwise, the “hurt” controls us.  We might think of forgiveness as only beneficial to the person who has done the wrong.  Forgiveness is also beneficial to the “victim.”  Forgiving and letting go of the hurt makes it possible for the “victim” to move on.  It makes it possible for us to love as Jesus love.

Peace,

Fr. Jeff

P.S.  As of today (8/16/18), my next presentation will center on forgiveness with a title of “Why Is It So Hard to Forgive Myself (and others)?”  It’s scheduled for Wednesday, October 3rd at 7:00 p.m.

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