“We are the family that love built. We have no room for hate, so we have to forgive”
Sometimes we speak about forgiveness as though it were easy – indeed, sometimes, it is. How easy to forgive the person we love for some small transgression or fault; how easy to forgive the child; how easy to forgive the person who we se to be genuinely contrite. But it is not always so easy to forgive. How hard it can be to forgive the person who has seriously wronged us; or the person we least expected to hurt us; or the person who has committed a terrible act against those well love.
And yet, that is exactly what we are called to do.
There is a power in forgiveness, a power to heal and to transform; forgiveness is a real and living thing, not just a word. True forgiveness comes from the heart and can change the heart of another; not just the heart to which the forgiveness is given, but also the hearts of those who witness this free giving. The words quoted above have filled the media today and those words will indeed heal and transform hearts who are touched by them; in time, they may also heal and transform hearts who are not presently touched by them, hearts that are cold and closed. Such is the power of forgiveness.
The other name for forgiveness of this sort is mercy – mercy is love that is not deserved. And mercy is, as Shakespeare noted, doubly blessed – “it blesseth him who giveth it, and him who receiveth it”.
The effects of forgiveness or mercy on another are perhaps fairly obvious – but how does mercy bless the one who gives it? It does this by setting us free. We are freed from the anger, vengeance, retribution and dehumanising effects of whatever act has led to the need for forgiveness. We are freed from the effects of that act of another heart upon us, effects which – if left unchecked – can result in coldness within our own hearts.
If the woman who uttered those words above can forgive amidst the most terrible of circumstances, can we hold on to our petty squabbles and irritations in the trials of life? Her words stand as a shining example to us and if they are to resonate in us, then we, too, need to utter them and put them into practice in our own lives.