Friday, July 25, 2008

"Ten Commandments of Forgiveness"

Eucharistic Adoration tonight, 7-8 pm, SAA Church. Summer Series continues! I will give a reflection, “Why Forgive?” Hope you can join us!
I will provide a handout tonight at Adoration which includes the following from a homily given by a priest, Fr. Brian Joyce. It is his "Ten Commandments of Forgiveness." If you would like to read his entire homily, please click on today’s title.

He introduces the list by saying, “Which (of these commandments) do I find most difficult to live with and to accept? I think the first five may be very hard to live with. But I think, at least up here in our heads, we accept them. I think. Here are the first five:

#1. Forgiveness is not easy. It takes time and it takes effort.

#2. Forgiveness is not forgetting. It doesn't mean a change in memory. It means a change in heart.

#3. Forgiveness does not overlook evil. In other words, it is not avoidance. It is not denial.

#4. Forgiveness is not destructive. It doesn't mean that we let hurt and damage continue and go on.

#5. Forgiveness is not the same thing as approval. In fact, the reason that we need forgiveness is that we don't approve. Something has happened that we do not approve of. We will not approve of it. What we can do is forgive.

Now, that's the first five. But then I think it gets more difficult. Think of these next five. Which of those do you not only have trouble living with, but which one would you say, for you, you are not even sure you can accept?

#6. Forgiveness is based on recognizing and admitting that people are always bigger than their faults. In other words, I shouldn't define people by just the way they have treated me. There is more to their lives than that.

#7. Forgiveness is willing to allow a person who has offended me to start over again. Or, do I say, "No room! No second chances! No, I will not ever let go and let you begin again."

#8. Forgiveness recognizes the humanity of the person who has wronged us and also recognizes our own humanity and our own shortcomings and our own contribution to what went wrong.

#9. Forgiveness surrenders the right to ‘get even.’ And, finally,

#10. Forgiveness means we wish the person or the group that has hurt us well. In fact, we wish them the best.”


At 11:32 AM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

This topic brings to mind my father's older brother and sister, who have not spoken to each other in nearly two decades. My uncle, who otherwise can be generous and compassionate (if somewhat eccentric), has soundly rebuffed any attempt at reconciliation. The reason for the rift: a stupid misunderstanding.

Needless to say, this rift has created a number of uncomfortable situations, although fortunately no one's been put in the position of "choosing sides." To avoid the hostility that likely would be radiating from my uncle, my aunt did not attend my grandfather's funeral. They both attended my sister's wedding, but when my aunt's husband, a Lutheran minister, tried approaching my uncle, my uncle had to be restrained from taking a swing at him (captured for posterity on video). When I was married, I had to swear up, down, and sideways to my uncle that my aunt would be seated nowhere near him.

I like and respect both my aunt and my uncle. It saddens me that my uncle insists on retaining his resentment. I can't imagine living like that...surely it most be like having a ball and chain clasped to one's ankle. He can't see that forgiving my aunt would benefit him far more than it would benefit her.

Both he and my aunt are healthy, but well into their 70s, and at some point there will no longer by any opportunity to reconcile.

At 1:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To cynthiabc

Yes at some point it will be too late to reconcile. My sister in law did not speak to my husband for fifteen years. When he died she did not come to the funeral or even acknowledge that he had died. What a shame.

At 2:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The self-help movement has promoted the idea that forgiveness isn’t something you do for another but something you do for yourself, but if we are to forgive as God forgives, that isn’t really so. Is it?

So, if we are to forgive as God forgives us, I get stuck on one point- repentance. Doesn’t God require that of us- being contrite, asking for forgiveness and doing penance? I can’t count the number of times when another has done something that hurt me and hasn’t even acknowledged my perspective, much less offered an, “I’m sorry.” And yet, I presume, I'm still required to forgive. For me, that ranks up there with moving mountains!

Often when another does something that smarts, I examine my own actions. Honestly, there usually is something I can see that contributed to whatever. Sometimes I even catch myself justifying another’s actions toward me. In some instances, those last “hard” five aren’t so hard to offer another but almost impossible to afford myself.

I see that maybe I get confused with the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. When we forgive another, are we reconciling with them or really ourselves, getting back to the people we are meant to be and thus repairing our relationships with God? So, maybe, ultimately, forgiveness isn’t something we do for another OR self, but something we do for God.

At 4:03 PM, Blogger fran said...

It is sad to think that many people will leave this earth, unable to, or simply not desiring to settle their differences and forgive on another. All about pride.... While this is more than unfortunate, prayer is often the answer.

An Act of Love

O my God, I love you above all things with my whole heart and soul because you are all good and worthy of all love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you. I forgive all who have injured me, and I ask pardon of all whom I have injured.

At 5:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always thought it odd that the saying went, “it takes a big person to say your sorry” and then the saying stops. It should go on to say, “and it takes an even bigger person to forgive.”

Yeah, pride is a powerful force. Where I can stumble is getting pride confused with self respect. Pride causes me to think more highly of myself than I should, expecting that I’m due something other that what I've received. But self respect is respecting myself by understanding my worth and not letting others trample my worth or dignity.

At 12:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To 2:02 anon:

It seems to me that the only way one can be open to God is to first be aware of self apart from God. Without conceptualizing the finite; i.e., our sinful, limited existence here on earth, how can we conceptualize the infinite; i.e., self in union with a loving God, forever?

At 2:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fr. Greg-
I appreciated your talk tonight at Adoration. You gave me some things to think about. Thanks.

P.S. Maybe along with those Ten Commandments you can offer a ten step guide. I think I could that!

At 11:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’m struggling with separating forgiveness and trust with a person I can not easily walk away from. Shy of falling off the edge of the earth, I have to interact with this person. If an offensive behavior occurs in response to varying stressful situations, is discussed between parties with the offending person admitting that their behavior is less than desirable, they resolve to “work on the not so good behavior” and little progress is made over many years, can one be forgiving and lack trust in the person in one particular area of behavior at the same time?

I do believe I “love the sinner, not the sin” as I wish the person internal peace and have no bad feeling towards this person, but I don’t trust the person’s behavior in response to predictably unpredictable stressors. I live with trepidation, fearing the next unknown stressor that will ignite the underlying volcano, a volcano filled with hot lava that hurts the soul when spewed.

Somehow I feel like I should trust this person if I have truly forgiven them, give them a clean slate to write on, but a long history has left me doubtfull. Have I really forgiven this person, or am I simply fooling myself? Or, are the two concepts totally unrelated?

At 12:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon @ 2:18 AM:

Type in "forgiveness" on the internet and you will find several step related approaches to the concept.

At 1:34 PM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

To Anon 11:56 PM

In the Q&A on Friday Fr G mentioned that forgiveness doesn't preclude justice being done. Being forgiven by their victims doesn't set criminals free from jail.

I don't think forgiveness presumes that one trusts that the forgive-ee won't repeat the offense. Whether you choose to forgive is independent of whether the offender is repentent and willing to change the behavior.

What you CAN trust is that the person you reference isn't going to change his behavior. Accept it and work around it, or re-think whether you're really stuck with that person. It may be time to change jobs, end a friendship, or cut off contact with a family member. I doubt that "turn the other cheek" means that you have to keep getting kicked in the teeth.

At 6:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What you CAN trust is that the person you reference isn't going to change his behavior."

So, are you saying that two or more people, that see and react to things with a response that is acceptable to all should give up hope for change or resolution? That's a hard approach for me to accept, not only in this situation, but in life.

Hope for another chance at being a better person, for being able to see the amazing sunrise, for smiling at a stranger and for working through difficult relationships is part of the gift of another day in life. It's as if hope is a double edged sword; living with it leaves me frustrated and disappointed, living without it - I can't conceive of not having hope. What am I missing here?

At 12:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My sentence should have said “...with a response that is NOT acceptable to all…”

And, with a sense of humor, as I read the following on, July 25, 2008, I couldn’t help but think; “If the Vatican can agree on the refinement of the language in the third edition of the Roman Missal and institute change in some of the texts used in every celebration of Mass, certainly we lay folks can agree on refining our response to unpredictable events and change our behavior so that it is acceptable to all!

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The Vatican has given its approval to a new English-language translation of the main constant parts of the Mass, but Catholics in the pew are unlikely to see any of the approved changes at Masses for awhile to allow for catechesis on the reasons for the revisions.

The most significant changes approved by Rome include:

-- Whenever the priest says, "The Lord be with you," the people will respond, "And with your spirit." The current response is "And also with you."

-- In the first form of the penitential rite, the people will confess that "I have greatly sinned ... through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault." In the current version, that part is much shorter: "I have sinned through my own fault."

-- The Gloria has been translated differently and the structure of the prayer will have changes from the current text.

-- The opening of the Nicene Creed changes from "We believe ... " to "I believe ... "; other changes in the prayer also have been made.

-- Before the preface, when the priest says, "Let us give thanks to the Lord our God," instead of saying, "It is right to give him thanks and praise," the people will respond, "It is right and just."

-- The Sanctus will start "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God of hosts." The current versions says "Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might."

-- The new response at the "Ecce Agnus Dei" ("Behold the Lamb of God") is: "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed."

At 11:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 11:56-
I’ve begrudgingly come to realize is that we aren’t “stuck” with anything. It may seem that way, but what we accept in our lives is the result of choice. Owing that is the thing that keeps me from feeling victimized, which, respectfully, it sounds like you’re describing. In dealing with relationships, a bad marriage, for example, perhaps one person indulges in behavior, maybe repeatedly, that the other finds offensive and unacceptable. Maybe there are children and the offended party doesn’t walk away for the sake of those children. Maybe the offended party doesn’t walk away because he/she is simply choosing to honor their word. Maybe then the only choice isn’t worrying so much about what the other might do, but trusting oneself to handle what may come. There is always the greater good to consider in every situation. If I can identify the greater good and focus on that, I see that I’m making a choice for good rather than resigning myself to the fact that I’m “stuck” with anything- it’s the difference between feeling victimized and empowered.

I have someone in my life that has hurt me again and again. I turn the other cheek because, for one thing, I’ve come to realize the person’s behavior isn’t about me. After going through the processes of hurting and healing and hurting again, I realize I’m not even the target; I’m more like collateral damage. I think that’s often the case with those repeat offenders- they’re really out to hurt themselves more than us; we just get in the way. In spite of their actions, they are deserving of our compassion and forgiveness.

If, after repeated offenses, you are still able to love the sinner, I’d say you’re doing pretty well.

At 3:32 PM, Blogger CynthiaBC said...

Anon 6:50pm, I’m all for hoping that a person will change his behavior, and for trying to work out difficulties in relationships.

Although developing some degree of cynicism is an occupational hazard for those in my line of work, I’m not THAT cynical about people in general. As much as one can HOPE for change, however, it doesn’t follow that one should TRUST, or expect, that change will happen. It also doesn’t follow that one should continue to allow another to wreak havoc on one’s life.

At 4:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’ve been focusing a lot on forgiveness, and issues of trust are ever present in that process. Trusting another person must have some expectation of failure, because we are all imperfect and have failings that violate another in some way, even if we don’t mean to. So, trust will always require a willingness to forgive.

We must remember that people are complex. We all have been hurt and therefore have fears and experiences that may impede a willingness to trust and/or be truthful in a relationship. But, we each have the capacity to grow in trust and truthfulness. The other side of that is that, at any point in time, we will all have a long way to go in that process. More often than not, we owe it to each other, and to ourselves, to give one another the opportunity to grow- to do better next time.

At 9:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

#7. Forgiveness is willing to allow a person who has offended me to start over again. Or, do I say, "No room! No second chances! No, I will not ever let go and let you begin again."

Very hard Father, very hard.

At 9:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What you CAN trust is that the person you reference isn't going to change his behavior."

This is rather cynical don't you think, after all look at St. Augustine or St. Paul. If neither had changed and been accepted for their conversion, where would we be? If people can't change their behavior, well, Fr. Greg and all other priests might as well hang up their collars and call it a day...there would be no point for what they do. The mere fact that the priesthood exists is a testament and an opening for all of us "notorious" sinners to change. In fact if behavior didn't change Fr. Greg wouldn't be a priest at all because didn't he once say that he once didn't believe in the real presence?

The hard part isn't that "they" won't change, the hard part is LETTING them change and letting ourselves believe that God can work in them as well as us.

At 8:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe that it is not in our power to predict IF or WHEN another person will change. Faith is belief in things unseen and unproven.

To love another person requires that we have faith in their abilities to change.

I also believe that forgiveness and trust, although related, are not the same.

Not all people are worthy of our trust. Often it is necessary to forgive, understand, but protect ourselves from another's harmful or destructive behavior.

At 9:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Not all people are worthy of our trust. Often it is necessary to forgive, understand, but protect ourselves from another's harmful or destructive behavior."

But do we protect ourselves to the point that we don't really forgive someone? For an example, I have a person I know who went through life very selfishly and did quite a bit wrong. Who after hurting many people hit a brick wall, someone whom they respected and admired wouldn't accept certain behaviors from him and said "no more", completely cut him out of their life and will not have anything to do with him.

It forced my friend to take a good hard look at himself and begin a long hard road to change, in the space of a year and a half opening up to God, counseling, praying he has made huge leaps in changing himself. My friend worries that one day they will be forced to be in a working situation together and this person won't give him a chance to be the converted person he has become. Not that this person was innocent either, they did some pretty bad things in their hurt to my friend but he emotionally and mentally takes on the blame for that too which I think is wrong. My friend refuses to believe that this person, who says they have forgiven him, will give him a second chance despite all the hard work he has done. I have tried to tell him that he has to give it more time, and if the person really is a Christian and lives out their faith, then in time for the pain of the situation to dull a little they will recognize that with Christ all things are possible and all people can change. I keep reminding my friend of St. Paul, when he had his conversion no one trusted him it took a lot of hard work for his conversion to be accepted, so to is what he faces with this person. I pray that this person will at least give them the opening that Peter and the Apostles gave Paul.


Post a Comment

<< Home