Why Forgive??

Forgiveness is a very tender subject. It brings up lots of memories, emotions and desire in most of us. Forgiveness is also something I’ve struggled with most of my life; I still don’t have it down perfectly, but I’m making progress.

Forgiveness is in fact heart medicine because it involves the healing experience of touching God. I realize that some of you have an issue with the term “God”, so think of that word as code for “the Divine.”  Or maybe think of it as Spirit, Nature, or the “peace that surpasses all our understanding.” The important thing for us to remember is that in the whole universe there is only One Power, and that Power is LOVE.  It is the LOVE that unites and creates and sustains literally everything in creation.

Forgiveness is a call to jump into the river of compassion. Life is a crap shoot: we don’t choose our parents, our situation, our genetics or even our gender. Life gives us our experiences in order to teach us that, no matter what, only compassion will bring us peace and security. Embracing compassion allows us to release our sadness and find gratitude for all the lessons we’ve learned.  Yes, ALL the lessons!  The river of compassion reveals to us that we are all the same, that all people are broken in some way as we are, and that life is not about demanding perfection on any level. .

Forgiveness is not about ignoring our pain and disappointment. It’s not about pretending that terrible things haven’t been part of our story. It is about enlarging our ideas about who the victim is and who the perpetrator is: this is true because we ourselves have played both roles with gusto. Compassion reveals to us that all of us, including those who’ve harmed us, are enveloped at all times by the grace of God.

As a young boy I lived in a home where fighting, verbal abuse and physical violence were commonplace. I thought, of course, that this had something to do with me—even though it didn’t. It changed my life: I graduated high school early so I could flee to another town and rush into a marriage with a girl from an eerily similar background. I was so focused on my own victimhood I neglected to see how that violence had become a part of me.  True, I never verbally or physically abused anyone, but a lot of energy was wasted on asking things like, “Why me?”

That’s because when we’re kids, we don’t have the emotional maturity to separate ourselves from our parents, peers and teachers. We don’t understand the impact of the pain others are carrying when it’s projected onto us. We unknowingly take on the legacy of their trauma in an elaborate human dance that has lasted for untold generations. And the thing is, as adults we’ll keep on projecting this mess onto our children and our grandchildren unless we stop the momentum. This is possibly the most important stand we can take in life.  This is the most important lesson Jesus taught us by dying the way he did; it’s the most important lesson redounding to us in the aftermath of the Easter earthquake. Instead of continuing to pass on the pain, clinging to sadness and unforgiveness, we can choose to dive into that river of compassion and proclaim instead, “All of this stops with me.”

Praying for each of you this week, that whatever you’ve turned to to escape the past—alcohol, drugs, serial relationships—you find your way to the banks of that river.


About frmichelrcc

I have a degree in religious studies from the University of Wisconsin, did graduate work in theology at St. Norbert College, De Pere, Wisconsin, and also at St. Paul's University in Ottawa. I have been a Benedictine since I first professed as an oblate in 1982, making final profession in 2009. I have worked as vocations director in a large diocese in the mid-west and am a spiritual director in the Benedictine tradition. I have 3 sons, one of whom is now in God's loving embrace in eternity, and 2 grandsons, Bradley and Jacob.
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