As i was growing up the one thing that kept me from going to Church every Sunday and becoming Catholic was the idea that somehow Christians had a boring life, that was my excuse anyway. Holiness was BORRING. I was having fun, God loved me and that was that.
Then as I did more and more things that I knew were wrong, that I knew went against God’s laws the more excuses I made. Looking back I see that making those excuses came out of fear of God. I feared what would happen to me if I stepped foot inside a Church. I pictured me going into a Church and everyone knowing that I was a hoe, drunk, and many other things. God would know and I’d be struck by lightening on the spot. Or worse yet He’d come down from heaven and tell me I was not welcome in His house. I honestly thought that I was too far gone. There was no hope for me, none.
Then the flip side of that was the idea that God forgives everything. You do it, he has Mercy and you’re forgiven. Jesus died and took away all my sins so I had a free pass to do what I wanted and it was all good, God would have mercy on me and I’d get to go to Heaven. Yeah these thoughts usually came when I was drunk.
The first ideas I just wrote about would usually come to me when things would go wrong. When I was in trouble, when I lost my job because I was arrested during my shift or when the man who was using me for a playground was bored with me and no longer answered my calls. The second group of thoughts that all was good God is merciful and I had a free pass to do as i wish came when things were going good. When life was good, I had a new man in my life and a new job etc. My feelings flip flopped from one to the other based on what mood I was in.
Nowhere in this time in my life did anyone ever tell me about forgiveness. Then after Homer died a co-worker gave me a Madea movie and told me to watch it. He also said that I needed Jesus. I laughed, he was a funny guy, and I just thought he was playing with me. Man did he hit that nail on the head!
I went home and watched the movie. Actually it was a play called “Madea goes to jail”. In the middle of this movie she talked about relationships, forgiveness, making mistakes and picking yourself back up. If you’ve never seen it, go find it online and watch it.
Fast forward 4 years later and I’m still learning about forgiveness. I think that like love, it is very misunderstood. Christianity is based on forgiveness. And I can tell you from what I’ve learned in the last 2 years you can take something that is the path to God and BET that the devil has found a way to twist it around so that it leads us far far away from God. That’s what he does. He’s done that with forgiveness, he’s done it with a lot of things.
So here is what I think about it. Again, I’m no theologian, or a spirit director, these are some of my thoughts. (I say “you” as in general “you”, not in a pointing finger kind of “you”. )
Forgiveness takes humility. You have to be humble to ask for it. If you do something wrong whether you know it as you did it or realized after you did it, you have to ask for forgiveness. Nothing is more humbling that admitting you did something you shouldn’t have done. If you wronged someone then that’s who you have to ask to forgive you. In confession we ask God and the Church to forgive us. All wrongs effect more than just yourself. You effect everyone around you. It also takes humility to forgive. To forgive yourself, and others who have harmed you someway somehow. Now this is where most people get tangled up. Forgiving someone does NOT mean what they did to you is ok, it doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve to justly pay for what they did. It just means that you are not going to carry that hurt inside you anymore. Forgiveness does not take the place of justice, as Pope Benedict says.
Forgiveness from God can not happen unless you ask for it. It cannot be demanded or assumed. We can’t just say “oh thanks Jesus for allowing yourself to be tortured, beaten, spit on, mocked, and hung from a cross. Thanks for enduring all that so I can go and sleep around and get drunk, and it’s all forgiven.” Just think about that for a minute in silence and see how wrong that really is. In order for God to forgive, we have to ask him for it, repent from the wrong you’re sorry for and try to not do it again. That’s why the bible says the word “repent” so many times when talking about forgiveness. There can’t be one without the other. There is no sin to big that it can’t be forgiven IF we ask for forgiveness. I think that’s the key that most people forget about.
Finally we will be forgiven as we forgive. This one was a shocker to me. I’m a grudge holder. That’s just part of who I’ve been most of my life. If you do something to me, I will hold on to it for the rest of my life. I will want to fight with you every time I see you no matter what you say. So when this was brought up to me it really hit me like a ton of bricks. I had to go and sit in adoration and really start re-thinking how I treat people. There are several verses in the bible and countless Papal writings that talk about this. You will be judged by the measure in which you judge. Rude. So forgiving others is for your own good. The more you forgive, again that does not mean that you need to be a doormat for others, the more you will be forgiven.
Forgiveness is not a feeling. It’s not an emotion, it’s an action. It’s a choice to not hate, not be rude, not talk about a wrong to everyone you come across. It’s not a ok to treat you like crap. If someone does something to you, you have every right to tell them “this here, what you are doing is bothering me”. But you don’t have a right to go and tell every one of your mutual friends and acquaintances “Can you believe what so and so did to me?” < That’s gossip for one thing and for another it’s not being forgiving .
I’ve already said this and I’ll say it again, just because I can sit here and write about what I’ve learned on forgiveness doesn’t mean that I practice this all day everyday. I don’t . In fact this is the hardest of all things for me to put in practice. I’m fighting the urge right now to bash my husband’s ex wife on my blog. Learning and growing are all part of our journey. I hope nobody thinks I’m pointing fingers, because I’m not. This is just a little view into what goes on in my head.