Recently, someone said to me:
“Your capacity to forgive people who have completely screwed you over blows my mind.”
It’s something I hadn’t really thought about that much. Not that I think I’ve somehow “arrived” as far as forgiveness and the receiving of forgiveness, but here are my thoughts on the topic:
I believe the ability to forgive and to ask for the forgiveness of others is completely dependent on my level of self-awareness and capacity for introspection. Many people go through life with a mentality that immediately points the finger at others in an attempt to assign blame or explain failure. I’ve learned that it is so much healthier in both professional and personal relationships to immediately assume I am the one in the wrong, then, once every avenue for that assumption is exhausted, to start looking outside myself.
The ability for Christians to forgive and to recognize our need for forgiveness is directly related to our understanding of Jesus, who he is, and who we are in relation to him (our capacity to love and be loved is also tied directly to these things, but that’s for another post).
“Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” -Luke 7:47
Until we all understand that we are the “sinful woman” at the foot of Jesus in the story from which the above quote was taken… until we understand that we are no better than our broken brothers and sisters around us… until we understand that we are in just as much need of forgiveness as those on whom we pile guilt or blame… we will not have the capacity to either be forgiven or to forgive others.
“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
I am fully dependent on the message of grace and forgiveness that is found in the gospel; I really have no other choice. More often than not, I feel how Paul did when he wrote Romans 7:
“…what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.…For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”
When I understand that my need for forgiveness is directly tied to my willingness to forgive, it causes me to be more introspective about the reason for my actions and aware of how they affect others. When I understand the obstacles in my own life that lead to my failures, it gives me the ability to empathize with the person who has wronged me. It gives me the ability to forgive and to be forgiven.