Terrelyn's Blog

Forgiveness and Reconciliation

Q:WHAT IS FORGIVENESS?
FR.JONAH:FORGIVENESS MEANS TO RESTORE A BOND OF LOVE AND COMMUNION WHEN THERE HAS BEEN A RUPTURE.SIN RUPTURES OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD AND OTHERS,AS ALSO DO OFFENSES TAKEN AND GIVEN AMONG PEOPLE.
WHEN THE BOND IS BROKEN WITH OTHER PEOPLE ,WE TEND TO OBJECTIFY THEM AND JUDGE THEM,NOT SEEING THEM AS PERSONS,BUT ONLY OBJECTS OF OUR ANGER AND HURT.THIS IS OUR SINFUL REACTION.WE CATEGORIZE PEOPLE IN TERMS OF THEIR TRANSGRESSIONS AGAINST US.THE LONGER WE NURTURE THE ANGER AND ALIENATION,THE MORE DEEPLY THE RESENTMENT TAKES HOLD IN OUR HEART,AND THE MORE IT FEEDS ON OUR SOUL.

RESENTMENT IS A CANCER THAT WILL DESTROY US IF WE DON’T FORGIVE!IT ALSO LEAKS OUT AND DAMAGES OUR RELATIONS WITH OTHERS WHEN WE SLANDER AND GOSSIP ABOUT THOSE WHO HAVE OFFENDED US,AND TRY TO DRAW OTHERS TO OUR OWN SIDE….OF COURSE ,NO ONE SHOULD WANT TO HEAR SUCH THINGS,BUT WE DO!

 
FORGIVENESS MEANS OVERLOOKING THE SIN OR TRANSGRESSION AND RESTORING A BOND OF LOVE.IT DOES NOT MEAN JUSTIFYING THE OFFENSIVE ACTION,OR ACCEPTING IT AS RIGHT,NOR DOES IT MEAN JUSTIFYING ONES OWN ANGER OR SINFUL REACTION.FORGIVENESS MEANS LAYING ASIDE OUR JUDGMENTS OF THE OTHER PERSON AND OUR OWN SINFUL REACTIONS,AND ACCEPTING OTHERS FOR WHO THEY ARE.
GOD’S FORGIVENESS OF US AND OUR SINS AGAINST HIM ,IS UNCONDITIONAL AND ABSOLUTE.GOD DOES NOT REJECT US,OBJECTIFY US,OR BEAR ANGER OR RESENTMENT AGAINST US.THESE ARE ,I THINK,OUR PROJECTIONS ONTO GOD OF OUR OWN ISSUES AND JUDGMENTS AGAINST OURSELVES WHEN WE SIN.GOD DOES NOT PUNISH US….RATHER BY ALIENATING OURSELVES FROM GOD,WE PUNISH OURSELVES AND ASCRIBE THIS PUNISHMENT TO HIM.WE TURN IN ON OURSELVES IN ANGER AND SELF HATRED,AND THUS SHATTER OUR PERSON HOOD,CUTTING OURSELVES OFF FROM HIS LOVE.
BY ASKING GOD FOR FORGIVENESS.WE OPEN OURSELVES TO HIS LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE,HIS GRACE AND COMPASSION.THESE WERE THERE ALREADY,BUT WE NEGLECTED THEM.BY CONFESSING OUR SINS,WE SURRENDER THESE AREAS OF OUR LIVES WHERE WE HAVE JUSTIFIED OUR SELF ALIENATION FROM GOD.REPENTANCE MEANS NOT ONLY TURNING AWAY FROM SIN,BUT ALSO TURNING TO GOD.JUDAS WAS REMORSEFUL FOR HIS SIN–BUT HANGED HIMSELF.WE NEED NOT ONLY TO BE REMORSEFUL BUT ALSO OPEN OURSELVES TO GOD.

Q:HOW ARE RECONCILLIATIONG AND FORGIVENESS RELATED?
FR. JONAH:RECONCILIATION PRESUPPOSES FORGIVENESS.IF WE FORGIVE SOMEONE,WE NEED TO BE OPEN TO THE POSSIBILITY OF RECONCILIATION,IF POSSIBLE.RECONCILIATION IS FORGIVENESS IN ACTION—-THE ACTUAL RESTORATION OF THE INTERPERSONAL BOND BETWEEN TWO PEOPLE,IN MUTUAL ACCEPTANCE OF EACH OTHER ,FOR WHO EACH ONE IS.
FORGIVENESS AND RECONCILLIATION CAN LEAD TO A STRONGER BOND THAN PREVIOUSLY EXISTED.EACH TIME AN OFFENSE OCCURS,WE CAN LEARN MORE ABOUT BOTH THE OTHER AND OURSELVES.THIS CAN LEAD TO A DEEPER KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING OF EACH BY THE OTHER,AND CAN ALSO LEAD TO A MORE AUTHENTIC BOND OF INTIMACY.RECONCILIATION SHOULD ALWAYS BE THE GOAL.
SOMETIMES WE FEEL UNABLE TO RECONCILE —-TO PUT FORGIVENESS INT O OUR ACTIONS AND RESTORE A RELATIONSHIP.IF THE PERSON HAS SEVERELY ABUSES US OR OUR TRUST,IT MAY NOT BE WISE TO DO SO.OR PERHAPS THE PERSON IS GONE OR DEAD.WE CAN STILL FORGIVE THEM,PRAY FOR THEM AND ACCEPT THEM,IF ONLY AT A DISTANCE.WE NEED TO LOOK A WHAT IS WITHIN OURSELVES THAT PREVENTS US FROM RECONCILING—SOME FEAR OR EXPECTATION OF THE OTHER.BUT IT IS CRUCIAL TO REMEMBER THAT FORGIVENESS IS ONLY FULFILLED IN RECONCILIATION.
AN EXAMPLE OF GOD’S FORGIVENESS,AND A MODEL FOR OUR OWN–IS THE PARABLE OF THE PRODIGAL SON.THINK OF THE HURT OF THE FATHER AS THE YOUNG SON WITHDREW INTO THE MOST SELFISH KIND OF REJECTION AND REBELLION..THE FATHER NEVER CEASED TO LOVE THE SON,AND WAS WATCHING AND WAITING FOR HIS RETURN.WHEN THE SON CAME TO HIMSELF AND BECAME AWARE OF HIS OWN SIN—BUT NOT OF HOW MUCH HE HAD HURT HIS FATHER–HE RETURNED.STILL THINKING OF HIMSELF AND HIS OWN NEEDS,HE REHEARSES HOW HE WILL ASK HIS FATHER TO RECEIVE HIM AND MAKE HIM AN EMPLOYEE.BUT HIS FATHER DOESN’T EVEN LET HIM FINISH HIS LITTLE REHEARSED SPEECH.HE EMBRACES THE SON AND HOLDS HIM TO HIMSELF.HE HAS A ROBE AND A RING BROUGHT,RESTORING HIM AS SON AND HEIR.HE KILLS THE FATTED CALF AS A SACRIFICE OF THANKSGIVING TO GOD.HE NEITHER DEMANDS NOR WANTS AN APOLOGY,NOR DOES HE PERMIT ANY JUSTIFICATION,OR EVEN SELF-DENIGRATION ON THE PART OF HIS SON.RATHER HE FORGIVES THE SON FROM THE ABUNDANCE OF HIS LOVE,CASTING AWAY ANY RESENTMENT OR BITTERNESS AND EXCEPTS HIM FOR WHO HE IS—HIS BELOVED SON, THIS IS HOW GOD FORGIVES US! WE MUST FORGIVE EACH OTHER AND BE RECONCILED.

Q:WHY IS IT SO HARD FOR US TO FORGIVE THOSE CLOSEST TO US?
FR.JONAH:THE DEEPER THE BONDS OF LOVE AND INTIMACY,THE SHARPER THE PAIN OF ALIENATION THROUGH OFFENSES.THE MORE WE TRULY KNOW SOMEONE,THE MORE CUTTING OFF THE BOND OF LOVE CUTS TO THE CORE OF WHO WE ARE.WE CANNOT SOLELY DEFINE OURSELVES IN AN INDIVIDUALISTIC AUTONOMOUS MANNER.THIS IS A FALSEHOOD,OUR OWN EGOCENTRISM,WHO WE ARE AS CHRISTIANS,AS PERSONS,IS A MYSTERY HIDDEN IN CHRIST OF OUR UNION WITH ONE ANOTHER.A HUSBAND AND WIFE ARE ONE FLESH IN CHRIST.”MY BROTHER IS MY LIFE”,SAID ST.SILOUAN.

THERE IS A SACRED BOND OF LOVE IN FRIENDSHIP,WHETHER IN THE WORLD OR IN A MONASTERY.WE MUST BE VERY WATCHFUL SO AS TO PRESERVE THAT BOND.BUT THE GREATER THE INTIMACY IS,THE GREATER THE LIKELIHOOD OF DEEP OFFENSES OCCURRING–BECAUSE INTIMACY PRESUPPOSES VULNERABILITY.THIS,HOWEVER,IS AN ASPECT OF HOW WE GROW IN KNOWLEDGE OF ONE ANOTHER—CONSTANT FORGIVENESS AND RECONCILIATION.WE COME TO KNOW AND ACCEPT THE OTHER PERSON FOR WHO THEY ARE.WE HOPEFULLY BEGIN TO RECOGNIZE OUR PROJECTIONS AND EXPECTATIONS AND DROP THEM.THEN,WE COME TO KNOW OURSELVES BETTER THROUGH OTHERS.
FORGIVENESS IS HARD–BUT IT IS INFINITELY SWEETER WHEN WE RECONCILE WITH SOMEONE WE DEEPLY LOVE.IT IS HARD BECAUSE IT MAKES US LOOK AT OUR SELFISHNESS,OUR JUDGEMENT,OUR EXPECTATIONS,AND OURSELVES.IT ALSO SHATTERS THE ILLUSIONS AND FALSE OBJECTIFICATIONS THAT WE HAVE HAD OF THE OTHER PERSON,NOT TO MENTION THE OFFENSE ITSELF.
WHEN WE HAVE OLD WOUNDS,EVEN FROM OUR CHILDHOOD,WE ARE ALL THE MORE LIKELY TO PROJECT ONTO OTHERS OUR IDEAS AND EXPECTATIONS,WHICH ARE EVEN MORE DISTORTED BY THE OLD RESENTMENTS.THIS IS DELUSION.OUR OLD WOUNDS AND RESENTMENTS MAY BE COMPLETELY UNCONSCIOUS.THEY MAY HAVE BEEN CAUSED BY AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT PERSON.FOR EXAMPLE WE PROJECT OUR ISSUES WITH OUR PARENTS ONTO THOSE WITH WHOM WE FORM A CLOSE BOND.THIS IS THE NORMAL DYNAMIC OF NEWLY MARRIED COUPLES,BUT ALSO OF EMPLOYEES WITH BOSSES,OF STUDENTS WITH TEACHERS–AND ESPECIALLY OF NOVICES AND MONKS OR NUNS WITH THEIR ABBOT OR ABBESS.WHEN WE TRANSFER OLD UNRESOLVED ISSUES ONTO SOMEONE OUR IDEA OF THAT PERSON HAS VERY LITTLE TO DO WITH HIM,OR HERSELF.WE DREDGE UP OLD ISSUES WITH THEM,AND PUT ALL THE ENERGY OF THE OLD RESENTMENT INTO IT.THIS OF COURSE CAN DESTROY RELATIONSHIPS.
HOW DO YOU GET OUT OF THIS?I’M NOT SURE —OTHER THAN BY PATIENCE,PERSEVERANCE AND UNCONDITIONAL LOVE.YOU HAVE TO SOMEHOW BREAK THROUGH THE DELUSION AND SEE WHO THE PERSON REALLY IS.
IF WE ARE REPEATEDLY IRRITATED BY A PERSON WE ARE CLOSE TO,IT IS NOT THEIR PROBLEM,BUT RATHER OUR OWN.THE IRRITATION IS OUR REACTION.THEY ARE BEING WHO THEY ARE,AND IF WE HAVE NOT REALIZED THAT YET,THEN WE MUST SIMPLY ACCEPT THEM WITH THEIR CHARACTER FLAWS AND ALL.THE OTHER PERSON IS RESPONSIBLE FOR HIS OWN SINS.BUT I ALONE AM RESPONSIBLE FOR MY REACTIONS.
WE HAVE TO LET GO OF OUR RESENTMENTS OF OTHER PEOPLE,AND ESPECIALLY OF THOSE CLOSEST TO US.FIRST,WE NEED TO ASK OURSELVES IF WE WANT TO BE BITTER ,ANGRY,RESENTFUL AND UNHAPPY.THEN WE MUST LOOK AND TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR OUR OWN REACTIONS.WE CAN ONLY CHANGE OURSELVES.

 

from the booklet “forgiveness and reconciliation”

Concilliar Press

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