I didn’t attend our parish’s Reconciliation Service last week because I was so angry at someone for hurting a member of my family that I knew I couldn’t yet ask for forgiveness. I wasn’t ready to forgive, and I know the two go inextricably together. A couple of days later I attended Reconciliation at another parish in our diocese; I wanted to let go of my anger and hoped I could. My confessor listened, looked at me with Christ’s tenderness, and suggested I write the word “forgiveness” on a paper where I’d see it throughout the week. I did.
In addition, I bought the book, Everyone Needs to Forgive Somebody, by Allen Hunt. He offers 11 stories of people who discover that forgiveness is a key to joy. At the end of each chapter, he suggests an activity. I’m listing some as suggestions to help you discover whom you need to forgive (perhaps yourself, perhaps God) and what steps can assist in your journey of forgiveness. So little can be covered in these 4 minutes. I read the book in a short evening and recommend it to all.
- Create a forgiveness journal. List people you have hurt and need to ask for forgiveness. Then list people whom you need to forgive for hurting you.
- Write down your 5 biggest mistakes, failures, or disappointments. Recite each aloud, praying after each one: Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy.
- Visualize your deepest hurts and resentments. See each as a rock and slowly place the rock in a bag. Imagine taking the bag to a lake, hefting it over your shoulder, and throwing it into the water. Watch it sink. Feel the release. Your hurts and resentments are gone.
- Seven steps to forgiveness:
- Remember your own need for forgiveness
- Pick one thing you know you ought to forgive
- Ask God to saturate you with his grace to help you forgive.
- If possible, engage the offender in direct, open, honest communication. Don’t accuse, focus on how you feel. Say, “I forgive you.”
- Follow your words with some act of reconciliation—perhaps a hug, handshake, or meal together.
- To prevent the same hurts from occurring again, keep your lines of communication open, with clear, healthy boundaries and guidelines for your relationship.
- Learn to forgive the small things—with friends, family, or coworkers. Be a person of grace. Don’t dwell on the hurts. Recognize you are still prone to mistakes as you become the-best-version-of-yourself, just as others are.
- Make 2 copies of the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi and place one in your bathroom for mediation as you get ready in the morning. Place the other in your forgiveness journal.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
When there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
- Make a conscious decision to forgive. Resolve today you will be a forgiver. Those who forgive benefit from a better immune system; lower blood pressure; better mental health; lower anger, anxiety, and depression; and enjoy more satisfying and longer-lasting relationships than those unable to forgive.
- Perform an act of kindness. First do it for anyone. Next week, perform a kind act for someone who has injured you. Being kind to someone who has taken advantage of you prevents you from feeling resentful and can also change his or her heart.
- Write a letter to someone who has hurt you very much. You may choose to mail it or not, but writing the letter is an important first step toward your healing and the release of the power the person holds over your heart. Express the specific hurt and that you forgive the person.
So how am I, Betty, doing on forgiving? It’s a process, not a one-time decision, but I’m making progress. Here are a few practices that help me:
- Acknowledge to yourself the anger and hurt you feel. If possible, voice it calmly right away to the person who hurt you.
- Don’t continue to “lick the wound.” Dogs make their sores larger by doing this, and so do we when we dwell or obsess on them. Practice “thought stopping” when you find yourself doing this and instead—
- Pray for the person who hurt you. Place them in God’s care. Remind yourself you want to be a forgiver.
Today is Good Friday. Allen Hunt acknowledges how strange it is we call the day of Christ’s suffering and death “good.” Yet it brought our greatest gift of all time. Our sins are forgiven. All we need do is forgive those who hurt us. This isn’t easy, but God will help us, and grace us immeasurably. God’s plan for the whole world is forgiveness and reconciliation. What a gift and blessing!
After all, everybody needs to forgive somebody!
You can find this week’s book at www.dynamiccatholic.com, Amazon, or it can be ordered through your local bookstore.
Blessings on your week and on your Easter season!
-- Betty Arrigotti Author of Christian Love Stories: Hope and a Future (Oaktara 2010) Where Hope Leads (Oaktara 2012) www.BettyArrigotti.com