Forgiveness is unglamorous courage. It doesn’t seem particularly heroic. It’s an interior shift which hardly anyone outside the forgiver notices. Yet William Shakespeare was precisely correct when he wrote:
The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
Mercy is twice blest, resulting in a double blessing. Obviously, forgiveness benefits the one who receives it. The offender is let off the hook. The revenge or the penalty which might rightly befall them is relinquished. But forgiveness also brings enormous benefits to the forgiver.
When someone offends or insults us, it hurts. They hurt us and made us miserable. However, that doesn’t seem to be enough. Often we continually replay and restage the injury on the platform of our minds, churning up the misery again and again. In so doing we perpetuate the hurt. No one else can be blamed for the misery which we inflict upon ourselves by holding onto the transgression.
Once we understand that most of the miseries in our life are self-inflicted (and this can be realized by simple observation of the mind and our mental processes) freedom is possible. Forgiveness makes immeasurable sense. It becomes a blessing for the offender as well as for us. Jesus offered practical wisdom and spiritual guidance to liberate us in this world from the bondage of our misguided ways.
Fr. Joe Mitchell, CP is the director of the Passionist Earth & Spirit Center in Louisville, KY.
See his website: http://www.earthandspiritcenter.org/