Forgive vs. Forget
Dear POP Folks,
Recently, our communications ministry conducted a survey, asking what you would like to see in this blog. One request was: Forgive vs. Forget. Since that is a struggle for me personally, my first thought is that I’d like to read someone else’s blog on Forgive vs. Forget.
But one of the strange characteristics of priesthood is that men are called to teach holiness, even if they haven’t arrived there yet. We’d never tolerate that in a physician or an auto mechanic: you’d better know your stuff or I’m going elsewhere. And yet, in the priesthood, it is actually essential that the practitioner be unfinished, incomplete. Then, and only then, can it be clear that it is the life and person of Jesus Christ shining through that is the real power. It’s all about Jesus.
How does this play out in our faith lives? Penance is a good example. You can come to confession and be sorry that you cursed your love ones and co-workers. You may not, at that moment, be feeling terrible about it, but you know it’s wrong and you want to apologize to God, to receive forgiveness and to do better. If it’s sincere, it doesn’t matter if you feel sorry as long as you are sorry.
At the same moment, the priest does not have to feel merciful or compassionate to actually minister forgiveness and healing. He speaks the words of Jesus in the person of Jesus. That never depends on a human emotion. It always depends on the Cross and the love of God, and that is given by God and never withheld from those who sincerely ask for it…no matter how they feel.
Likewise, when I go before God and make the decision to forgive another person and make the commitment not to hold on/dwell on the hurt I have received, then I have forgiven….no matter how I feel.
Forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling.
I may have feelings of anger, hurt, resentment that continue to haunt me. My task is to give them over to God and not to dwell on them. Sometimes, I must do this over a long period of time before the feelings begin to lose their edge. As I surrender them to God, I also pray for his healing and also for his blessing on the other person. This can be very, very difficult, but it is also a very powerful prayer and brings healing to me, to my “enemy” and even to the world.
Remembering/forgetting is never a measure of whether you have forgiven. In fact, the only real measure of forgiveness is the Cross. When you’ve placed your burden there, God’s healing can begin.