From where does forgiveness come within ourselves?
I had a parishioner visit me who was very much distressed. He is a single father who has been supporting his son through college. His son had been taking the money his father had been sending him, and instead of using it to pay for tuition, rent, utilities, books and supplies he had been using it to buy clothes, go out partying, buying his friends dinner and drinks. Instead of paying for school, he had been applying for loans, which he maxed-out on fairly quickly. This behavior went on for months and months and he finally failed out of school, bringing the lie he had been living out into the clear light of day. When his father found out, and he realized the thousands of dollars lost, he was justifiably angry.
We visited for a long time the day he came in to talk to me about this. He talked about his overwhelming feeling of anger and not knowing what to do with and about his son, he talked about betrayal and the outright lies, and was concerned about how he was ever going to trust his son again. That was a repeated refrain in our conversation. At the very end of his discussion with me, he asked me the question I think he wanted to ask me from the moment he walked in my office. He asked How will I ever be able to forgive my son? This, above all the other emotions he was feeling, was the question he was most concerned about.
I asked him if he still loved his son. And he said yes. I told him not to confuse trust or forgetting with forgiveness, for forgiveness comes from our love for the other. I told him that he may never be able to trust his son the same way again, or forget the betrayal he feels for his sons actions, but those are not the same thing as forgiveness. Forgiveness comes from the heart, it comes from our love. It won't come right away, we have to consciously work at it. Feeling angry is, many times, appropriate, but we can't let our anger get the better of us. Feeling the anger, recognizing it for the emotion that it is and then letting it go is an important part of healing. Trust and forgetting may never come but forgiveness of those who transgress against us can and will come in time if we open our heart and remember the love we have that is so deeply rooted within our being. Forgetting and trust may come too over the course of time, but that is not as sure.
Forgiveness is a sure thing and an important part of our healing when we have been wronged. We know that from the model God provides for us, the model Jesus provides for us. We are so deeply loved by God that we can be and are forgiven by this omnipresent God whose love knows no bounds, whose arms can encircle us, embracing us if only we decide to walk into that embrace.
Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.