Mutual Forgiveness is essential to healthy relationships and flourishing community life. Without it comes frustration, division, constant miscommunication, grudges, bitterness, awkwardness, anger, and mistrust, just to name a few forms of the brokenness un-forgiveness creates.
I am a sinner. You are a sinner. We live with sinners. That's just the undeniable, broken reality of things. Unfortunately, this means the question is not if you hurt me, but when - and how - you hurt me, what is my response going to be?
How well do we understand the call to forgive? Jesus is certainly clear on the teaching in Scripture: the measure to which we show forgiveness and mercy is the measure to which we ourselves will receive it (see Luke 6:38). He stresses it even more emphatically when he teaches us to pray. He chooses to elaborate upon only one of the lines in the Lord's Prayer: "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14-15).
The teaching is clear, but do we have the desire? Do we really understand why forgiveness is so important? Do we understand that harboring un-forgiveness robs us of freedom? In those moments of hurt, betrayal, and wounded pride, the Christian rubber meets the road, as it were. We're faced with an intense decision to listen to Jesus' warning, or to burn bridges and to close in on ourselves. The choice is before us. As Moses put it, choose life - forgive.
I think it's helpful to view relationships through the lens of marriage (and family life), for here we see the brokenness of human relationship in all it's vulnerable intensity. Sinners are thrust together to live a common life together, forever. (Thank God Matrimony is a Sacrament, for how could we truly keep the vows we profess without grace?!) We enter into a covenant relationship with people we know will never be able to fully keep their end of the bargain, and knowing full well neither will we. This doesn't, of course, justify our sinfulness, but it does make the mutual resolve to forgive a foundational characteristic of our most intimate relationships.
Mutual forgiveness is the secret to living out our vocation to love. Some people think they need to wait until their perfect to get married. But that's silly. The whole point of the vocation is that, through it, we grow in perfection, in holiness. We learn to love. And loving a sinner (i.e. the person we marry) means learning to show mercy, to forgive. When spouses do this, they're drawn out of their sinfulness and they mutually call each other to a deeper, more perfect love. With both parties are on board, a beautiful (Christ-like) love begins to blossom.
It's easy to see it's in a marriage, but this kind of merciful love is called for in all Christian relationships. Where do you harbor un-forgiveness? (If you have students or children, pose this question to them often)
If we can't, or if we're unwilling, we're stifled in our desire to love and to be loved. Created in the image of love, our deepest freedom is found in our capacity to forgive those who have hurt us, no matter how difficult it is. If we can't, if we refuse, we're no longer free.
1 - Share Yourself 2 - Know the Kerygma 3 - Pray. Especially When You Don't Have Time.
4 - Collaborate 5 - Invite. Invite. Invite. 6 - Be Cheerful 7 - Do the Task at Hand
8 - Don't Forget Recess 9 - It Begins with a Smile 10 - The Topic is Always Jesus
11 - The WIIFM Principle 12 - Recapture the Enchantment 13 - Learn to Use Youtube
14 - The Art of Accompaniment 15 - The Art of Listening
16 - Eat Food. It's Part of Evangelization 17 - Everything Leads to Liturgy
18 - Self-love Can Still Be Other-centered 19 - It Will Never Be Perfect, Don't Stress
20 - The "Student" is the Whole Family 21 - Catechesis is a MEANS of Evangelization 22 - The 5 Means of Evangelization 23 - The Christian Life is Service 24 - Doctrine is for Prayer. 25 - From Evangelization to Immanuelization 26 - Humility, Love, and 'Eucharistic' Anticipation 27 - People Change People 28 - Salvation History is Our Story