While praying this morning a sudden thought occurred to me regarding the concept of forgiveness. I do not recall by now where I was in my Morning Prayers and what triggered the thought. It doesn’t matter, really.
I have struggled with forgiveness quite a lot over the years; what it means, do you ‘feel anything,’ does it ‘take’ or do you have to forgive the aggressors or antagonists again and again if the feelings and resentments still oppress you.
My struggles with forgiveness stem primarily from the treatment that I was subjected to by my blood family, mostly siblings, in the aftermath of my Mom’s death in 2005. I won’t go into details about what they did, but it all made me consider suicide. I actually drove about my home county looking for a cliff or ravine I could drive off. I don’t recall why I settled upon that method of demise, but I was spared by a phone call from my pastor which alleviated some core issues.
So, back to the topic of forgiveness. Simply, what is it and what does it mean? Simply put, in my inspiration this morning, it means that…
…you no longer desire for those who have trespassed against you to be punished for their crimes.
That’s it. No vengeance against them, no reconciliation with them, no alleviation or elimination of your feelings or resentments, no psychological process to cut off your emotional connection to the events that caused you suffering (nice, if you can do that and it works, but not necessary) no desiring their eternal damnation or even considerable time in Purgatory. You simply do not want them to suffer punishment for their actions against you.
That’s all. They wronged you, they hurt you even to the point of despair and possible suicide, and whatever else… it is no matter. Despite what they did, you just do not desire them to suffer for their crimes. At all.
Perhaps they’ll be punished for it someday. But you won’t be the agent of it, for be assured that God knows what they did and unless they repent and have remorse for their actions they will suffer for it.
Romans 12:19 “Do not defend yourselves, dearest ones. Instead, step aside from wrath. For it is written: “Vengeance is mine. I shall give retribution, says the Lord.””
Luke 11:4 “And forgive us our sins, since we also forgive all who are indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.”
We see from those two Scripture passages that vengeance is reserved to the Lord alone and that our sins are forgiven if we forgive those who have sinned against us. Want forgiveness? Be forgiving. Leave it up to God what to do about those who have harmed you.
As a concluding note: Perhaps they can even let you know in some way that they’re sorry, and would like to make amends. That would be nice. An email, message through Facebook, an actual snail mail letter. Whatever. Some satisfaction, assuming they’re humble and compassionate enough to reach out to you. “I’m sorry, Paul, for hurting you so much. I’m sorry I made your grief worse; that what we did to you was like rubbing salt in a fresh wound. I’m sorry for driving you to consider suicide. I’m sorry for not coming to your aid against the one who was primarily responsible for your pain and despair. I’m sorry for not being there. I’m sorry you were so alone and abandoned…” Yeah, that would be nice. Don’t hang too many hopes on it happening, it may be best to just let it go.
I looked up “Forgiveness” in the search engine for this blog, found many posts but these seemed most interesting for today:
Or there’s the post archive (warning, there IS A LOT): Forgiveness post archivesKnow 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!!)