Saturday, December 12, 2015

Forgiving ... With or Without Forgetting?

"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us." -- the words of Christ

The standard by which God will forgive us is determined by us.  That is both a hopeful and frightening thought.  

Forgiveness can be challenging.  To really, truly forgive someone from your heart is a grace that takes work and time, especially when the offense is quite great.

Sometimes I think I've forgiven someone, but then the devil starts encouraging me to replay the mental video tape of past hurts and wounds, thereby stirring up the old feelings of resentment and anger.  I have to will that videotape to stop and choose forgiveness...again and again.  

My Mom once told me that she read somewhere that praying for the person who hurt you, daily for two weeks, is very healing.  And that certainly does help; I can attest to it.  

Praying for that other person--for his or her happiness and salvation--softens your heart.  You remember this is another soul created by God, loved by God unconditionally and eternally.  You remember Christ died for him or her, too.  Every night I pray for the person who hurt me, for her final perseverance and that one day she can be with God forever in heaven.

I think the aspect of forgiveness with which I struggle the most is the forgetting part.  Should you forget the hurt and injury?  

I once thought so.  Let bygones be bygones, so to speak.  Turn a new page!  Start again!  And that is how I acted in this particular relationship.  There was an injury, the offender apologized, I accepted the apology, and the relationship was resumed.

I worked very, very hard to put that injury behind me.  But, sadly, a couple of years later the offense was repeated--on a much larger, more serious, and more hurtful scale.

So I find myself back in the familiar spot of: I need to forgive and I'm praying for the grace to keep forgiving.  

This time, however, I don't want to forget. 

I don't want to harbor a grudge (and this is hard not to do sometimes).  Yet, I don't want the memory of what happened to completely vanish because I don't want to leave myself vulnerable again.  

I want to keep my boundaries up because I've learned that this relationship is one that is very dangerous for me.  I wanted the relationship to work, and that desire encouraged me to believe things were healthy and the relationship was normal.  I forgot how unhealthy things had been before, and how incredibly easy it is for things to fall back into that unhealthiness.

It's difficult because this is a family relationship, so I feel responsibility and the demands of charity on one side of the equation.  Yet, I see on the other side many hurtful words and wrong behavior.  

So I'm in a place where I'm trying to forgive.  And when I think I have forgiven, something triggers past memories and I have to work to forgive all over again.  

I'm also in a place where I'm working to balance letting go of past wrongs...while remembering them enough to realize I need very strong, very firm boundaries.  

Is this how God forgives?  I don't think God puts up boundaries, do you?  

However, while God wipes our slate clean after confession, forgiving totally, there are still repercussions to our sins.  Our trespasses have consequences and God doesn't wipe those away.  There is still temporal punishment, which we pay through suffering in this life or in Purgatory.   God loves us, He forgives us, but He is merciful and just.  

Perhaps that is somewhat analogues to this.  I should forgive whole-heartedly.  Yet, the offense, while forgiven, incurs a kind of punishment, in the terms of boundaries and keeping distance.  One could maybe say boundaries are an act of charity, in the way of preventing an occasion of sin if the offender has a particular vice in this area.  

God forgives, but does He forget?  I have absolutely no theological citations or references for this, so please do not accept my musings as fact.  But I wonder if He does not forget.  The claim of justice seems to warrant remembering...remembering that there was a wrong done that needs to be righted.  Otherwise, if a murderer goes to confession right before dying, would he appear before Christ, who would say, "Go right into heaven!  I don't remember any of your sins!"  That doesn't seem right.

God forgives in mercy; He remembers in justice.

The trick, of course, is remembering without bitterness, anger, and resentment.  God remembers with love and sorrow.  So, I suppose when I remember a wrongdoing--in the effort to keep the right boundaries in place--I should remember in sorrow that this person committed such a sin.  I should have remorse for her, not bitterness, and the memory should prompt a prayer on her behalf.

Loving someone at a distance, a very far distance involving no communication, is a challenge.  I don't think I am doing it as best as I can.  But I will keep trying and pray that God will also have mercy and forgive me for my shortage of love.

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