By C.J. Kallevig
Forgiveness is a difficult thing. How can you know if you have truly been forgiven?
Or let’s flip it around. How do you know that you have truly forgiven someone? Sure, you can say ‘I forgive you,’ but are you positive? Can you be absolutely sure?
The dictionary definition of forgiveness is: to cease feeling resentment (Merriam-Webster website). You can insert fear, anger, and hurt in place of resentment.
But that does not always happen. It is very easy to say ‘I forgive you’ while still holding resentment or anger in your heart. I think the only person that has been able to give forgiveness all the time truthfully is Jesus.
If you have said ‘I forgive you’ without meaning it, that’s ok! Forgiveness is a word that is often thrown around flippantly in our world today. However, it is a serious matter, and sometimes it can take a long time.
Here is another definition of forgiveness that I think is a better one. It is: to remember what has happened in the past but to not let it affect your future. I like this definition better because it acknowledges that resentment can still be there. Often times people say, ‘forgive and forget’, but does that actually happen? Not really.
Forgiveness is hard! Especially because after we have been hurt, we remember. We remember exactly who hurt us, and what they did or did not do. This can color our actions and our feelings towards the person, particularly if it is a friend or relative of ours.
Now you may be asking, ‘Well then, how do I know that I have forgiven someone?’ or even ‘How do I forgive?’
Start with prayer. Always start with bringing whatever you are struggling with to the Lord. Let Him work with you through all of the emotions and struggles you are facing.
Next, be honest with yourself and with the person that you are trying to forgive. If they ask for forgiveness but you aren’t ready yet, tell them! You don’t have to explain why. All you have to say is that you are not ready to forgive them yet but eventually you will be able to. If they care about you and the relationship you have, they will be patient and understanding.
Forgiveness truly happens when you can look the person in the eye and sincerely say ‘I forgive you’.
For me personally, I’ve been struggling with this recently. Oftentimes, you have to forgive without any expectations of an apology. However, the Lord can bring about healing and reconciliation between people.
The Lord works in mysterious ways, but He knows the ways that are best for us.
God bless you all, and I will see you in the Eucharist.