Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 21, 2000
The struggle to forgive
Forgiveness is difficult, but a key to liberation, says speaker
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
People have a tendency to hold grudges and desire punishment for those who have wronged them. It's human nature to want to deny pardon for serial killers.
It's a natural instinct to want to get even with war criminals and dictators. It's even understandable to get angry with your brother who never seems to pay back the $20 he borrows every month.
"Forgiving is very difficult for many people, for most people," said June Miller, a retired teacher and committee coordinator of the Lay Spiritual Formation Team. "But the habit of forgiving is liberating."
Miller spoke to about 50 people at Newman Theological College Feb. 13. The topic of her talk, forgiveness, is the second in a five-part series that explores spirituality in the jubilee year.
In this 2,000th anniversary of the birth of Christ, forgiveness is central in celebrating a true jubilee, Miller said.
But it's easier to talk about forgiveness than to give it or even ask for it.
Miller cites the example of forgiveness in the Rev. Dale Lang of Taber whose son was shot by a fellow student at his high school last year.
"To have (Lang) say 'No it has to stop here; if we don't start forgiving, it's not going to end.' That was incredible.
"That doesn't mean we like the deed or we like what people do."
The Our Father is an example of forgiveness that, as Catholics, we recite on a regular basis, Miller said.
"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. We have to live this in our lives. Forgive sins and trespasses against us."
These trespasses and sins are not necessarily the ones of physical bodily harm, but also little things.
"Forgive the little things that no one quite intends," said Miller. "We have to forgive the everyday things, the little things we don't think about forgiving."
The key in forgiving a wrong, said Miller, is also forgetting it even happened.
"People say 'I can forgive, but I'm never going to forget.' How do we do that? It doesn't work that way. Amnesty has the same root as amnesia. To fully forgive, we have to also forget."
Forgiveness of monetary debt is not always an instinctual reaction. Debts, as those in the family or between friends, are not worth harping on, said Miller.
"If someone owes you money and you know he can pay you back or maybe he can't - if it's going to give you ulcers, then maybe it's time to forgive and let it go."
Forgiveness should also span globally, Miller said. She gives the public lobbying of G7 nations to forgive the debts of Third World countries as an example.
But often, it is our own families who we find hardest to forgive.
"Parents have good intentions," Miller said. "Not many people I know say 'I'm going to have a baby and do what I can do to mess this child up.'
"What they do is not meant to hurt you. Sometimes we have to have compassion for our own families."
Not only do we forgive, but we must also ask for forgiveness when we have wronged someone, Miller said.
"Become aware of your sin, confess it verbally. Regret it, allow yourself to regret it. Don't make excuses for it, feel bad about it. Resolve it, make amends. And don't do it again."