You can go through the motions, even say, “I forgive you!” But do you mean it? Is it a commitment for life? Or, will it change to wherever the wind blows? Do you impose conditions – explicitly or implicitly, consciously or subconsciously – to fulfill your vow?
Often, forgiveness like love is a one-way street. To tango does not always take two.
In Mercy and Compassion … A Source of Dignity and Joy, Saint Pope John Paul II amplifies our understanding of forgiving by referencing the parable of the prodigal son: “He who forgives [father] and he who is forgiven [son] encounter one another at an essential point, namely the dignity or fundamental value of the person, a point which cannot be lost and the affirmation of which, or its rediscovery, is a source of the greatest joy.” 132
In my journeys, I have discovered that it is easier to forgive if the person is not around. It feels good letting all the chips fall off my shoulders. The dynamics of ‘forgiving and forgetting’ wanes when the other breaks back into my space when either or both are still harboring hurts, with wide-open wounds. What now? Can we just talk about it, pierce through the wounds, and come to an understanding?
Rarely! People prefer to rehearse and nurse their hurts, even though God invites the best and worst of us to simply immerse our hurts in His Living Waters. And, let’s face it. Each of us has that propensity to claim [self] righteousness … “I’m right, you’re wrong; it’s either my way or the highway.” And, mind you, though forgiving your brothers and sisters in Christ is next to impossible, it’s almost hopeless trying to forgive and forget the hurts – real or imagined – perpetrated by one’s own family and blood relatives. Oy vey!
And what about the bigger picture?
Do you think for one moment that the many fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, relatives, and friends of the estimated 185,000 to 208,000 innocent Iraqi bystanders can forgive and forget the American ‘Christians’ who burned them alive or decapitated them in their apartments or open fields because they happened to be targeted at the wrong place and wrong time? The White House dismissed this as collateral damage. No! We detonated 41,404 sorties and incinerated many inside the eye that burst into an inferno, ripping human flesh apart. Most Christians in the United States are accomplices in making God look bad in the Middle East, the cradle of civilization, the birthplace of our Abrahamic faiths.
How can we make God look good? Become Christ-like, not sheep-like (Genesis 1: 26)! I’m working on it. You too?
Let’s beckon God, AKA, Joshua (Hebrew: יְהוֹשֻׁעַ Yehoshuʿa), whose name in Aramaic, the language of Jesus, is Yeshua Hamashiach – ‘Jesus the Messiah,’ the ‘Anointed One,’ ‘Salvation,’ ‘Prince of Peace, God’s Holy Spirit, to reignite His spark of divinity within us.
With every good wish to you, I am,
Abraham A. van Kempen
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