Forgiving Others (isn’t always easy)

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“Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. Should a man nourish anger against his fellows and expect healing from the Lord? Should a man refuse mercy to his fellows, yet seek pardon for his own sins?” 

–Sirach 28:2-4

“I’m sorry, please forgive me.”

“I’m sorry, please forgive me.”

When I was growing up, my siblings and I were taught from an early age how to get things right with our fellow man. We’d say these words over and over again. We didn’t always say them in the nicest tone (which meant we got to try again, this time saying it with love) but we learned how to get the words out. So often, that’s half the battle.

For as much as we Swenson kids now joke about this term, it’s such an important lesson to learn. To be quick to forgive and to ask forgiveness. Life is very hard if you can’t forgive.

What I’ve come to appreciate about this mantra — this way of life — is that is affords you the luxury of dealing with hurt, and then moving on. Keeping a short account — an important Christian concept — means dealing with things as quickly as possibly and then getting on with life. Sharing life with our neighbors and friends can be challenging when past hurts and mistakes are at the forefront on our mind.

Of course, the big struggle is not always saying the words but then really acting like you believe them. We can say we forgive a person, only to have the hurt surface again (and again and again). Sometimes we choose to dwell on past hurts; sometimes they linger despite our efforts to forgive and forget.

Forgiving and asking forgiveness are just a part of life — of healthy life in Christ. Any one of us who is committed to living the Gospel agree to “live in the light” — to go to someone when they have offended us, and to ask for pardon when we have offended others. Living a life for Jesus means that we have to be ready and willing to get things right with our fellow man. We have to forgive (or ask forgiveness) even when we don’t feel able, and that’s where God’s love comes in.

The secret to forgiveness is easy, really: it’s dying to self. And more than that, it’s having no self at all.

“But what you do not see is that you, the self in you, can never forgive injuries. The very thought of them means self in the foreground, then the injury, instead of appearing less, appears greater.” (from God Calling by A.J. Russell)

What is the answer? How can we overcome feelings of hurt and agitation towards our fellow man? It’s not easy to just “let it go,” especially when our feelings seem so valid.

We have to replace it all with love of God.

“Cease trying to forgive those who fretted or wronged you. It is a mistake to think about it. Aim at killing the self now — in your daily life, and then, and not until then, you will find there is nothing that even remembers injury, because the only one injured, the self, is dead.” (God Calling)

In other words: let it go.

But how? How do we let things go? We turn our focus from ourself, from our feelings of injury and hurt, and turn them towards our Creator. Turn your thoughts to Jesus and his overwhelming love for you. The King of the Universe is deeply in love with YOU. With that love motivating you, there is nothing you cannot do.

Ask Jesus for the grace to be quick to forgive and to ask forgiveness. It takes grace and mercy from the Lord. We certainly can’t do it on our own and out of our own goodness. We need Jesus. We rely on him to be who he wants us to be, to act the way we know we should — even when (especially when!) we don’t want to.

This originally appeared in The Southern Cross. 4886″> .

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Comments

  1. Wow, I needed to read that! I am going to print out that quote and memorize it. Thanks, Rachel! I’m so glad we don’t have to live in Augusta to read your articles! 🙂

  2. thank you for this. this was perfect timing for some stuff going on in my life, so i especially appreciate it. thanks a bunch!