Forgive Each Other
Jane Gardner, presiding evangelist
…forgive your brother or sister from your heart. -Matthew 18:35
“Don’t worry about it. Everything’s fine.” “Let it go and move on.” “It’s forgotten.” Through the years, I have heard all of these responses to moments of injury and hurt. Sometimes I was the one causing the pain, and at other times I was the recipient. What struck me recently about forgiveness in these moments is that comments like those usually refer to the process I followed with my mind. It’s as if I should be able to think myself out of the hurt. Or rationalize the pain I have caused and put the injury away from my conscious thought.
Today’s scripture passage says that we are to forgive from our hearts. While thinking and processing painful events with our minds is necessary, it is not until our hearts get involved that we are truly entering forgiveness territory. Forgiveness is hard work, and I often avoid it, using the phrases above and others like, “It’s OK. Everyone makes mistakes” or “No matter. Let’s keep moving ahead.” I might as well be saying, “Let’s ignore it; pretend it never happened.”
When I go this route, the mistake or hurt becomes set so deeply within that it isn’t until times of Spirit-awakening that I realize it is still present in my life and still having an effect. The hurtful comment by someone I counted as a friend, left unresolved, manifests as a feeling of low self-worth every time I’m with that person. My rush to complete a project, not stopping to hear a friend’s concern, influences my behavior on future projects. “I’m on a deadline-don’t bother me!” Whether I admit it or not, avoiding the heart-work of forgiveness does affect my discipleship.
Where to start? There are questions that feature head-mind work: What do we think is the problem? How do we think we can solve the problem? But there are also questions that feature heart work: How did we feel when this happened? What might make us feel at peace with the situation? What feelings do we still carry with us?
The Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh put it this way: “…Reconciliation is to understand both sides, to go to one side and describe the suffering being endured by the other side, and then go to the other side and describe the suffering being endured by the first side. Doing only that will be a great help for peace.”
The master of the slaves had it right. He expected his indebted slave to show the same forgiveness of debt toward others that he had displayed. When we are attuned to the Spirit, we extend grace to each other because God first showed mercy toward us. And, whether we are the giver or the receiver, it feels a lot like being loved and at peace.
“…all things in God and God in all things” (Mechthild of Magdeburg).
Reflecting on Presence
Breathe deeply and become present to the Presence with you here and now. Take a few moments in the silence to reflect prayerfully on the following questions:
Where have you been aware of God’s presence in your life?
What is God’s invitation to you in this story?
How do you desire to be more open to God’s presence and invitation tomorrow?
Today’s Prayer for Peace
Engage in a daily practice of praying for peace in our world. Click here to read today’s prayer and be part of this practice of peace.