“How could you care more about leaving for work than helping your son?”
“All I need to hear is ‘I’m sorry’ and everything will be fine!”
No matter the particular circumstance, we all face situations where we need to forgive. A spouse backs out of a commitment, a son or daughter lacks respect, a friend stabs us in the back, a brother shames the family, a coworker offends us, or a parent isn’t there when we need them.
Forgiveness is more than words, “I’m sorry”. “I apologize.” “Will you forgive me?”
Immaculée Ilibagiza suffered torment and 3 months trapped in bathroom with nine other women during the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Immaculée shared that she could not pray the part of the Our Father that reads “forgive us our sins as we forgive those who trespass against us” because she could not really forgive them. Yet, she knew deep down that God wanted her to forgive and that is why He taught us the Our Father. Immaculée’s prayer became one of asking God for the grace of forgiveness and when He changed her heart, she was able to forgive from within.
Words are meaningless if resentment remains. Mother Teresa says that it takes love to forgive and humility to forget. “It takes humility to recognize the greatness of God shining through us. … Jesus taught us how to forgive out of love, how to forget out of humility.” (Mother Teresa)
A man reflects on how he brushed aside his son’s request for attention when preoccupied with getting to work, and saw the hurt in his wife’s eyes. Instead of trying to forget about it and move on, he called home during his lunch break to ask for forgiveness. Love enables us to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. (Gallagher, 2012 p. 90).
A young woman from Singapore living in the United States was unable to forgive her father for the way he treated her in the past. Despite his attempts to reconcile, spend time with her, and begin again, she refused to forgive until she heard the words, “I’m sorry”. Her father’s way of manifesting apology was not by words. When she finally realized that, she was able to humbly accept his attempts at reconciliation and rebuild her relationship with her father. (Elmer, 2006 p.148-150).
Despite the struggles that forgiveness entails, God gives the grace when we look to Him for strength. After all, he is the one who went through the greatest suffering on the cross and still forgave his enemies, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” (Lk 23:34).
Elmer, D. (2006). Cross-cultural servanthood: Serving the world in Christlike humility. Madison, WI: Intervarsity Press.
Gallagher, T. I. (2012). The discernment of spirits. New York: Crossroad Publishing Company.
Ilibagiza, I. (2007). Left to tell. USA: Hay House.
Mother Teresa. Retrieved from: http://iskandar.com/waleed911/motherteresa.html