I’ve talked about the need for forgiveness in some previous blog posts, but I want to take a slightly different angle on forgiveness this time around. Forgiveness can be challenging. It can take some time to get to the place where we can forgive. Sometimes we avoid it because we have been hurt deeply. Other times we avoid it because we want to hurt others that have hurt us. And, sometimes we avoid forgiveness because we prefer to hold on to our hurts as opposed to healing from them.
In his work, The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis talks about forgiveness with the bold emphasis being mine.
. . . you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart—every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out. The difference between this situation and the one in such you are asking God’s forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily; in other people’s we do not accept them easily enough.
As regards my own sin it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are not really so good as I think; as regards other men’s sins against me it is a safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are better than I think. One must therefore begin by attending to everything which may show that the other man was not so much to blame as we thought.
But even if he is absolutely fully to blame we still have to forgive him; and even if ninety-nine percent of his apparent guilt can be explained away by really good excuses, the problem of forgiveness begins with the one percent guilt which is left over. To excuse what can really produce good excuses is not Christian character; it is only fairness. To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.
This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury. But to forgive the incessant provocations of daily life—to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son—how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night ‘forgive our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.’ We are offered forgiveness on no other terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy for ourselves. There is no hint of exceptions and God means what He says.
We have to deal with the issue of forgiveness on a few different levels.
First, God forgives us when we confess our sins. He is faithful to forgive us every single time when we come to Him. There is no sin too great. There is no sin to often repeated. His promise to us is that when we confess He forgives. He is always faithful to His promises. Forgiveness always starts here. We are forgiven and so to must forgiveness flow out of us.
Second, there is an interpersonal component of forgiveness. We hurt others through our actions as they can hurt us through theirs. The only healthy way forward is to forgive one another. It becomes impossible to love our neighbor or to love our enemy as Jesus commands without the willingness to forgive those who have hurt us. Forgiveness is good for our well being and it is good for the well being of the other party.
Third, we have to learn to forgive ourselves. This is the hardest one for me. I find that the other two are a bit easier to master. I am very hard on myself. I know I can trust God’s promise to forgive. But, accepting that forgiveness and forgiving myself for those things that I need to be forgiven for is difficult. This is an area that I need to do a lot of work on.
God, help us to forgive and to accept forgiveness.
Questions for Reflection:
- Is it easy for you to forgive when you have been hurt?
- Is it difficult for you to accept forgiveness when you have hurt others?
- Do you trust that God forgives you when you confess your sins?
- Do you ask God to help you forgive others?