Forgiveness-What it isn't
Some years ago I listened to a man give a talk about forgiveness. The man had come to lose all respect for his father, But he also felt that there was something missing in his spiritual life despite the fact that he came to church regularly and tried to live a good life. Then one day, moved by the Holy Spirit, the man picked up the phone and said, "Dad, I need to ask for your forgiveness for all the resentment I have been harboring towards you". Even though the father was not very receptive, it did not matter as far as the spiritual life of the caller was concerned. He had done what he needed to do. Immediately, he felt a new closeness to God and a new joy entered his life. Also, his prayers of petition for victory over some personal weaknesses started to be answered. Through his willingness to ask his father's forgiveness and to forgive him for any hurt he did to him, this man was freed from the burden of resentment, Joy was restored to his life and his renewed relationship with God bore fruit as he sought God's help with his own personal struggles. On a human level, forgiveness is beyond many people's reach. That is why we often hear the saying "to err is human, but to forgive is divine". Yet with the grace of God all things are possible, even forgiving what seems like an unforgivable sin or crime.
Forgiveness does not necessarily mean that we must forget a hurt or injustice. We often hear the advice to "forgive and forget". Sometimes it is not possible to forget some hurts and sometimes it is not even wise to do so. Some hurts and injustices are too big and painful to remove totally from our memory. What we can and should seek to do is to let go of the resentments connected with the hurt. If we do not, these resentments will continue to wound us, cloud the way we see reality, and control our actions. Also, while we may sometimes be able to totally forget some hurts, it is not necessarily wise to forget all hurts. We may need to remember some hurts to help us to not allow them to happen again. For example, if we do not remember how a person abused us, we run the risk of allowing such behavior to happen again. Also, remembering hurts that are forgiven and healed will enable us to offer understanding, compassion, and help to others in need of healing.
Forgiveness does not mean that we surrender our right to justice. For example, if we know someone has cheated us of a lot of money, forgiveness does not mean we surrender our right to seek justice. The late Pope John Paul II forgave Ali Agca, the man who tried to kill him, but he did not request that he be released from jail. Forgiving someone who breaks our trust does not mean that we give him back his job. We should not confuse forgiveness with stupidity. Jesus did indeed ask us to forgive, but he did not ask us to be stupid in our dealings with others.
Forgiveness does not necessarily mean I have to relate or befriend my offender. This is especially true if my offender shows no sorrow or remorse for the wrong he/she did. We can love and forgive someone without befriending them. Forgiveness also does not mean that I have to put up with intolerable behavior. If anyone abuses us, physically, mentally or spiritually, (Body, Soul and Spirit), we should do everything in our power to resist such behavior. Forgiveness does not mean we become doormats for nasty people. Forgiveness does not mean excusing, condoning, or minimizing the wrong inflicted on us. Forgiveness does not mean that we have to like our offender. Jesus did not tolerate the Pharisees, they repulsed him, yet he forgave them their offences against him.
Source: Fr. Eamon Tobin