The Gift of forgiveness…

A letter to a friend who was in some distress a couple of years ago, unable to forgive themselves. How many of us find ourselves in that situation at some point in life...

Hey Xxxx, just so you know from the outset, it’s 2 am, and I am writing with my Pastor hat on (figurative), and a nice glass of Shiraz (actual)…
According to Wikipedia: Forgiveness is typically defined as the process of concluding resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, difference or mistake, and/or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution. The Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness as:

'To grant free pardon and to give up all claim on account of an offence or debt'.

Forgiveness may be considered simply in terms of the person who forgives including forgiving themselves, in terms of the person forgiven and/or in terms of the relationship between the forgiver and the person forgiven. In some contexts, forgiveness may be granted without any expectation of restorative justice, and without any response on the part of the offender (for example, one may forgive a person who is incommunicado or dead). In practical terms, it may be necessary for the offender to offer some form of acknowledgment, apology, and/or restitution, or even just ask for forgiveness, in order for the wronged person to believe themselves able to forgive.

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. – Mohandas Gandhi
What does that mean in the context of our conversation? How can we move this well-defined, good-intentioned concept to a reality for you? A couple of things jump out to me immediately.

1)    The first is that forgiveness is a gift, given by the forgiver to the one forgiven.
2)    Forgiveness can occur even in situations where the one being forgiven is unaware, unable to respond, or may not even care.
3)    If number 2 is true, then the implication is that the lack of forgiveness negatively impacts the offended more so than it does the offender. 
4)    Forgiveness is independent of (not bound to or by) any concept of justice or perceived fairness
5)    Forgiveness is not based in the worthiness, penitence or deservedness of the one forgiven.

If all of the above are true, it must then be asked of you why it is hard to offer yourself forgiveness? If you believe yourself unworthy, you see that this is not a criterion.  So you’ve got no foundation. If you think that you’re not able to forgive, consider it a gift to yourself, in the season of giving. 

The more you know yourself, the more you forgive yourself. - Confucius

If number 3 is true, you may be hurting yourself from two sides: One because you 
are offended, and two because you are unwilling/unable to forgive. So I would ask that you give yourself the gift of forgiveness, so that you can release yourself from the offense, even if you don’t believe yourself worthy of that. In this instance, it is ok to be selfish…

To forgive is indeed the best form of self-interest since anger, resentment, and revenge are corrosive of that "summum bonum," the greatest good. – Bishop Desmond Tutu

This is an important step in the process of understanding the concept of redemption. In its simplest terms, it can be viewed in much the same way as recycling a bottle; turn it in and it is repurposed, and redeemed for another use…
We talked about God’s love for us being unconditional, and an act of grace (grace being defined as unmerited favor). We cannot earn it; we do not deserve it, and truly are not by any works of our own, worthy of it. Yet it is given. That is after all, the nature of Love.

Forgiveness is choosing to love. It is the first skill of self-giving love. – Mohandas Gandhi

The Bible says of Love that:

Love is patient, love is kind; love does not envy; love does not boast, is not puffed up; does not behave disgracefully, does not seek its own, is not provoked to anger, thinks no evil;  does not rejoice over unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails… Paul the Apostle, from his 1st letter to the Corinthians. chapter 13, verses 4 to 8a

Looked at in this way, it is easy to see how one could willingly shoulder the responsibility for someone else’s well being and care, and do so without complaint, even at great personal expense. You have seen in your parents, and example of true Love, and the same can be seen in Jesus the Christ.
You said that you cannot see how someone would give up their own life to pay your debt, and that this is but one of many truths. To that I say that just like the gift of forgiveness, it (this act of selflessness, and love) is without logical explanation, defies the norm, and done without expectation of reimbursement. In much the same way that your parents give of themselves to you each day, and you to them….

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. – John the Apostle, chapter 3, verse 16

In His Love and Peace


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