Facing Forgiveness

BOOK DISCUSSION: FACING FORGIVENESS 
by Loughlan Sofield, Carroll Juliano, and Bishop Gregory M. Aymond

The book, Facing Forgiveness, begins by sharing that Christians have the ultimate example of forgiveness in Jesus on the cross.  Futher, it is important for us as Christians to allow for an examination of conscience that allows us to learn to let go of anger and bring about the welcoming the gift of healing through forgiveness. Conversely, those who make the decision to hold on to their anger and not forgive continue to bear the weight of non-forgiveness.  Sadly, at times, the inability to forgive hurts leaves the non-forgiver with eternal grief, physical trauma, and often depression.  It is important to recognize that there can often be an internal struggle with the desire to be free of the burden on one hand, while also desiring to nurse the offenses of the past.  Many times, people cannot tolerate the personal pain they are experiencing in holding on to the hurt of the past, yet for reasons sometimes even unclear to themselves, they cannot bring themselves to forgive.  We, as humans can be hurt in countless small ways, but may times it is the bigger hurts that we carry with us and struggle to forgive the authors note.

Facing Forgiveness – The Significant Points:

Forgiveness is neither a cognitive nor an emotional response  it is an act of will.

It is the choice to let go of the desire to get even with an offending party.

·         Those who choose forgiveness experience a profound sense of freedom and would often describe it as if a physical, emotional, and spiritual weight has been lifted from their shoulders.

One of the primary reasons why people choose to retain their anger and not forgive is that they judge that “don’t know how to forgive”.

·         Learn through observation – look at personal examples of forgiveness in others.

·         Take time for personal reflection to help you clarify you own personal beliefs and attitudes about forgiveness. 

·         Seek spiritual guidance and pray for the grace to forgive.

It is important to begin to clarify personal beliefs about forgiveness.  These are some common beliefs. 

___ Forgiveness is a gift to oneself.   
___ Jesus preached forgiveness – the loving of one’s enemies.

___ Forgiveness is the essence of what it means to be a Christian.
___ There is a difference between forgiveness and justice. 
___ It takes courage to forgive.
___ Forgiveness is a slow process.

___ Forgiveness does not imply approval of the behavior of the other.

___ Not to forgive is to be the perennial victim of those who have hurt us.

___ Forgiveness will not result in forgetting.

A walk through an experience of forgiveness: 

Recall a time in your own life when you have caused pain to someone by what you have said or not said, done or not done.  Using your power of visualization, place yourself in the presence of that person.  Allow yourself to experience the sense of pain and regret that followed from your actions.  Now, as you visualize yourself sitting with that person, initiate a dialogue with that person.  Drawing on the strength of your own will, tell the person, in the quite of your mind, that you are sorry for having hurt him/her.  Ask for forgiveness for what you have done.  Now, in the quite of your mind, can you hear the other say, “I accept your apology.  Yes, I forgive you.

If you heard an acceptance, what effect does that have on you?  What emotions does it evoke? 

If, on the other hand, the person does not accept your apology and expressions of forgiveness, can you accept the fact that you have done all that you can do?  You have acted as a person of integrity.  You have initiated a process of forgiveness, but you have no control over the other person.  If you are not able to engage in this mental process, ask yourself, why not? What obstacles are preventing this action?

In previous experience, you engage in an imaginary conversation with someone whom you have hurt.  You will now repeat the process from above, only this time do it with someone who has hurt you.  

(Think of personal examples of hurt, such as:  abandonment or neglect from a parent; verbal, physical, mental, or sexual abuse; random acts of violence; bullying behavior or teasing, infidelity, breach of trust, etc.)

Can you allow yourself to sit in the presence of someone who has seriously offended you and tell that person that you forgive him or her?  Again, as above, we ask you to consider the questions posed about your desire to forgive or about the resistance you have towards forgiving.  Keep your eyes closed for a moment and allow this new scenario to unfold.  

CONSIDER THIS:

 As you begin this journey towards forgiveness, we invite you to ponder two important questions.  First, who has not yet forgiven you for something that you have done to offend them?  The second question is equally important and just as profound.  In your heart is there still someone that you have not yet forgiven?  It is important that you put a face and a name to each of these questions.  By naming who may not have forgiven you, and by naming someone that you have not yet forgiven, you are invited to participate in the sacred reality of mercy in which God wishes to embrace us.

 It is important to admit that the realities of being forgiven and offering forgiveness are usually messy and often heart-wrenching.  However, the anticipated pain and messiness does not excuse us from beginning the process of forgiveness.  Ultimately, we are all bound by the injunction of Jesus in the gospel that we forgive as God has forgiven us.  We acknowledge that it is much easier to say, “Forgive us of our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” than it is to actually do it.  It is only through God’s grace that we can forgive one another from the heart.

PERSONAL REFLECTIONS:

What are the areas where I find it difficult to forgive others?  What are the areas where I find it difficult to forgive myself?    

When I look at my scars caused by others, what do I see?  Do I have the courage to forgive those who have harmed me in some way? 

Have I had any experiences where choosing to forgive replenished life for me?

How have the dynamics in my family fostered or hindered forgiveness?

What is my image of God? Do I experience God as loving, compassionate, and forgiving to me?

CONNECTING CONVERSATION TO HAVE WITH YOUR PARTNER

Is there a healing process of forgiveness in my life that I need to initiate?  Am I willing to take the first step?  How do I feel about taking this step?

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