What is forgiveness? Taking the Webster dictionary definition it is a process of giving pardon for an offense. Forgiveness always takes two parties: the offended and the offender. For children this action seems so simple, a child says sorry to another child and they patch up and both forgets the offense. However, as the children grow older it gets complicated. They gain more friends and they establish groups and they get different needs and wants as well as interests.
At this point in their lives that saying sorry and accepting the apology seems harder because along the way pride sets in and they have created different layers of masks to protect and cover themselves. One can say sorry but not mean it while the other accepts it without really putting any thought into it, it’s like just get it over with. The result is forgiveness but the fault was just really pushed down inside and never forgotten. There is a possibility that in the future a trigger will cause it to surface.
In our society, the law dictates that the offender faces punishment based on the gravity of the offense. At times, the justice hands down the punishment but to the offended is there really a closure? What is more surprising is that if an offender gets a very witty defender then the offender will not even be punished at all. Sometimes, the law hands down punishment to wrong people. But that is how our society works.
But let us tackle forgiveness in moral context with spiritual twist. I can only write down what or how Catholic preaches this.
For us Catholic, it is very difficult because the author of forgiveness dies on the cross for us. He did not even commit any crime except His love for us. For Him, forgiveness is unconditional and unlimited. Confucius has a different thought on this, “if a person fooled you once, shame on him, but if the person fooled you twice shame on you”. Confucius dictates quantity whereas Christ dictates unconditional and unlimited. One can say that it is easy for Christ because He is God as compared to us because of our make-up.
However, funny thing is that being a Catholic is not a guarantee that forgiveness will come easy. Let me tell you a story. I have come across a person who has sought Christ’s teachings in various ways: attended spiritual groups; read tons of religious books; countless religious seminars; watched hundreds of inspirational videos; and other things to find answers to be holy. The person has forgiven another for the offense, but has really never forgotten the fault. And yet, teaches forgiveness but when asked why the fault of another was not forgotten, there were excuses and explanations why not.
That may sound funny but let us take another example I read on the paper and seen on television. A none Catholic person forgave the offender for killing their child. Why is it easy for one person to forgive completely and it is difficult for another?
Last weekend, my wife and I attended a weekend “Marriage Enrichment Seminar” which started Friday and ended Sunday. The seminar was held in Hyatt Hotel in Norristown, PA and it was a free seminar that includes hotel and food. What is there to lose, right? Spend the weekend alone with your wife for free and you just need to sit down and listen to the speakers. However, it was a very great experience and it’s priceless.
The seminar is a dead give-away, it is about enriching your marriage by listening to other couples narrate their experiences no matter how revolting (you can say taking out the skeletons in the closet) and how they turned it around. Each talk is followed by writing what you truly feel about your spouse and what is liberating is exchanging letters and having a dialogue in the privacy of your room. The seminar comprises of 10 talks from different couples on different topics. The stories I have heard from those couples were very intense and I wish I could share them but I cannot. Though, the common solution for all was taking off the masks that one has been worn for so long and being honest with oneself regardless of what the other will think. Acceptance is another part as well of course, putting Christ in the center. Not to mention forgiveness and the need to give the other a chance to change for the better.
I know it may sound so ridiculous because how can a weekend solve the years of troubles. And also, the thought that the feeling will only last only for that weekend and after that the couple will be back to their usual self. Yes, that is the human nature but if there is a commitment for the couple to really start over, that weekend is just a stepping stone towards their renewed relationship. It starts with taking down your masks (your defense), then accepting one’s fault (failures and shortcomings), asking for forgiveness, and acceptance without question or reservation. The most important of all is put Christ in the center and everything will follow.
Forgiveness in the true sense of the word starts with your own self. One should not be burdened by pride and the thought that you are faultless. One should accept that nobody is perfect and each of us helps each other to be perfect in some ways or the other. Forgiveness is humility. Forgiveness is love. Forgiveness does not keep tally. Forgiveness is acceptance. Forgiveness is never easy. Christ is forgiveness.