The concept of “forgiveness” has been on my mind recently, especially after this post. Obviously it is something that I’ve struggled with. The following comprises a summation of my recent internal debates.
OK, forgiveness… what does that mean? In the context of this blog, it will be in connection with the Catholic Faith. And thus we think of “Confession.” So, what takes place then? We go to Confession to confess our sins to a priest who, acting in the power vested in him by the Church absolves us of our sins. God forgives us and absolves us through the office of the priest.
So, the slate is wiped clean. We had offended God in some manner; we have abused our natural gifts in a way contrary to God’s will and intentions and we caused a disruption in our relationship with Him. A deadly rupture if the sins were mortal, less so if venial. In utilizing the Sacrament of Confession the wounds are healed and we move on in our relationship with God.
How does this apply to relationships with humans? Someone hurts me, I am wounded and the relationship suffers. How much depends on the extent of the offense. If little, it is easy to forgive; if not, forgiveness takes some effort.
Is the slate wiped clean? Perhaps. If the offense is great and the wound is deep, I interpret forgiveness to mean that I put the hurt and pain behind me, it is back there and I no longer dwell on it and nurture a resentment. I no longer ask “Why did it happen?” or seek any answers. If the action is recalled, the pain may return but I can dismiss it (with varying degrees of success dependent upon my state of mind.)
Forgiveness doesn’t imply reconciliation will follow; ideally it should as that would mirror our relationship with God and that is the model we seek in our dealings with others. However, other people are not God and thus reconciliation may not follow. In fact, oftentimes it shouldn’t if the protagonist has not repented and atoned for their offense.
OK. So we have established that forgiveness means the event is “back there,” and not emotionally connected to the present. You do not nurture the hurt by resenting the action. You no longer want to know “Why?” You no longer seek answers. Forgiveness has been made; if possible directly with the individual(s) so the relationship can be patched up or just unilaterally if you cannot deal with the other.
The problem I was having is that I thought that “forgiveness” didn’t “take hold” if the hurt keeps coming back. Perhaps it is natural for memories of the hurt to resurface from time to time. Much depends upon our ability to exercise self-control and discipline over our thought-life, but even then we are only human and if the pain was really deep it may never go away. I am referring to pain that was so intense that you yearned for death to end it and therefore contemplated suicide.
Nevertheless, perhaps the act of forgiveness needs to be done again. In some way, either by prayer and meditation, you contemplate the event and just turn it over to God. Let it become subject to His Justice and Mercy and try to leave it there. Praying to the Blessed Virgin and entrusting the whole matter to her is a part of this; Mary is our tender Mother and understands sorrow all too well.
And then another thought came to me: that recurring memories of a past hurt may just be intrusions of Satan into our inner life. The Adversary is observant; It knows very well what has hurt us. Perhaps It had even been the instrument behind the other peoples’ hurting of us. Satan does not want us to make progress spiritually; It desires our continued dwelling in the World and our adoption of the Worlds’ morals and ethics (which are clearly NOT conducive to getting you to Heaven). And so It oppresses us. Satan knows our weaknesses and propagates them as often as It can. If It is aware that a past hurt can distract us and weaken our path towards God, then who’s to say that Satan isn’t sometimes behind the development of resentments? That obsessing about a past event and having strong feelings about the whole matter isn’t Its way of causing us more harm to our souls? Imagining confrontations with the perpetrators and “getting even” in some way?
Whether it is demonic oppression (as distinct from demonic possession) or something less grave may not matter. It just means that we have more work to do in trusting in God’s Providence and Mercy. By ourselves we can do nothing; as they say in Twelve Step movements, “Let Go and Let God” so that He can establish His peace in our lives.Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! "The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics" and "The Recovery Rosary: Reflections for Alcoholics and Addicts" (Thank you!!)