In my life there have been many different levels of challenges when it comes to offering forgiveness. Sometimes it’s not that hard because the hurt wasn’t very grave. Sometimes it’s a lot harder because the person in question still keeps hurting me or the people I love.
The hardest case I’ve ever had in trying to forgive someone was because the grievously injured party was not me, but people I love. That I think, was the only time I ever really hated someone. I allowed myself to hate because I felt justified in hating. That was years ago… I no longer hate the person, but it’s still a challenge to forgive.
How do you forgive someone who is completely self-righteous? Who insists that any harm done is trivial and that the ones who have been hurt are over-sensitive? Or worse, when the other person points the finger back at you and insists that your own failings are the bigger problem? How do you forgive someone who not only is not sorry, but who will be offended to think forgiveness need be offered by you?
I wondered to myself…why do I in my heart rank people in terms of how much they deserve my forgiveness? Why am I more willing to forgive someone who wishes to reconcile with me than someone who does not acknowledge that he/she has harmed me and others?
It boils down to ME again. “Enemies are in one sense enemies only by our insistence on excluding them in our hearts from the love of God.” (Nouwen) When I think about the people I find hardest to forgive, I eventually find that the sticking point is not with them… it is with me.
Perhaps my pride gets in the way. I wonder why I should be the bigger person here when they can’t even see they’re wrong? Or perhaps I think to myself that the sin that’s been committed is so great that the person doesn’t deserve forgiveness… and that any forgiveness offered is something I ‘grant’.
When I think of forgiveness as something the other must ‘earn’, I’ve lost sight completely of what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is the child of unconditional love, and so is itself unconditional. It has no prerequisites. It has no conditions. There are no strings attached. When I forgive, it must be given freely…whether or not the sin is repeated in future.
When I find it hard to forgive, it’s because I am still too full of myself. I am too focused on the others’ faults and how they have wronged me. I become judgmental, angry, and competitive. I choose to exclude these people from the love of God in my heart.
My challenge is to be compassionate. Can I look beyond the rights and wrongs I believe myself to be justified in? Can I see my enemy as my brother and sister who is also suffering? If they are unable to see their own suffering or how they make others suffer, can I find it in my heart to offer them more love instead of less?
If I empty myself, I will not be self-righteous. I will not sit in judgment on who ‘deserves’ forgiveness and who does not. I will realize how unworthy I am myself of forgiveness, and give thanks every time I receive it as a gift from others.
Lord, please help me to empty myself. Help me to see my enemies as your beloved children. Let pride and self-righteousness be cast aside. Help me to be merciful as You are merciful. On my own I cannot do this. But with You, all things are possible. :)