Nouwen writes today of forgiveness, something I have been studying.
“It is hard for me to forgive someone who has really offended me, especially when it happens more than once … Maybe the reason it seems hard for me to forgive others is that I do not fully believe that I am a forgiven person. If I could fully accept the truth that I am forgiven and do not have to live in guilt or shame, I would really be free. My freedom would allow me to forgive others seventy times seven times. By not forgiving, I chain myself to a desire to get even, thereby losing freedom. A forgiven person forgives. This is what we proclaim when we pray, “and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who have trespassed against us.”
I have learned that forgiving ourselves, or accepting that we are forgiven by God, even after we repeatedly confess and our heart is overcome with remorse, is one of the most difficult things for people to do.
I have been in the position of having to forgive and of having to ask for forgiveness many times. I ask myself: what does it feel like, to be forgiven? My mind goes blank. I feel nothing. I replay in my mind moments in my life when I have been engaged in forgiving or being forgiven. One stands out.
We were in a very noisy place. The conversation wasn’t planned. The offense was several years behind us. The offenses were mutual. The collective damage, great. The conversation took on a life of its own. We drew near one another and the clatter of plates and laughter surrounding us faded as if by a great muffler. There was an urgency to our whispers. When at last, all our words had poured out between us, our foreheads were nearly touching. And I remember feeling as if I had just come through a near fatal accident.
“Relief” doesn’t fully capture the experience, but in describing what forgiveness feels like…it’s a good start.