Why is Forgiveness so Important?

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There is no love and no salvation without forgiveness. Why?


We must ask for forgiveness, because we are all sinners – If we claim that we do not need forgiveness, we are claiming to be perfect, without sin. This is a very radical lie and unawareness of ourselves, and it blocks the grace of God coming to us to heal and save us. When we admit our wrongs and ask others for forgiveness, we admit how we really are, and this truth in the core of our being opens the heart to receive God’s love and mercy.


We must forgive, because we are commanded by Christ the Lord to forgive – Even if we do not understand every situation – “Who’s right, who’s wrong?” – we know that the Lord commands us to forgive “seventy times seven.” In the most important prayer of all, the one that the Lord Himself taught us, we ask God to “forgive our debts AS WE FORGIVE our debtors.” What could be clearer than this? If we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven.


When we ask forgiveness, we are reversing the fall of our first parents – After Adam and Eve sinned, they justified themselves and so instead of receiving God’s forgiveness, they were cast out of Paradise. When we admit our sin and ask forgiveness, we are reversing this sin of pride and self-justification, and we make ourselves citizens of Paradise.


When we grant forgiveness, we are being like God – What could be greater than to imitate the Lord Himself? God forgives us “seventy times seven,” and He asks us to do the same. When we forgive those who wrong us, we are being like Him.


How do we ask for and grant forgiveness in daily life?

  1. Do not let little things pass – Even small flare-ups of temper and petty disagreements should not be allowed to pass. If we offend or have a disagreement of any kind, no matter how small, ask and grant forgiveness. 
  2. Do not wait too long to ask forgiveness – St. Paul says, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” If you have had a fight with someone, pray for awhile to calm yourself and receive guidance from God, and then approach your brother with whom you have had a problem. This is like avoiding piling up credit card debt: If you always keep a clean slate with everyone, you will not have to dig yourself out of a deep hole.
  3. Do not over-analyze what happened – We get too complicated, figuring out who said what and why, and who was at fault. Usually this is related to trying to justify ourselves and make the other person look bad. The “bottom line” is that we are all sinners, and that the demons are constantly trying to make us misunderstand and hurt each other. Just go and say, “I sinned against you; forgive me.”
  4. Prepare yourself: The other person may not respond well  – Do not be disturbed if the other person is still angry or heaps accusation upon you. The important thing is that you have done your part by asking forgiveness, and that this is pleasing to God. It is up to the other person to respond with love; if he does not, that does not erase the good thing you have done by asking forgiveness. God sees and God forgives. If the other person remains angry and will not forgive, pray for him.
  5. When someone asks you for forgiveness, do not accuse – When you are the one who is being asked to forgive, just forgive. Do not say, “Well, I forgive, but…” and then heap accusations upon the person or say how hurt you were, etc, etc. This is forgiveness “with a hook”: you use the supposed forgiveness to get revenge by making the other person feel bad. This is not pleasing to Our Lord, and it does not help you but condemns you.
  6. Remember that your emotions will not heal at once – You can make a choice to ask forgiveness and to forgive without your emotions being totally calm. They just have to be calm enough for you to keep them under control. Especially if the offense between the two people was serious, the emotions may take a long time to heal. But it is important to remember that involuntary bitter feelings are not the same as a refusal to forgive. We start with the will – we choose to forgive and we beg for and grant forgiveness. Then we can begin to heal the emotions, which may take awhile.

How do I heal my feelings when someone has hurt me?

The very best and only really effective method is prayer. Pray specifically, by name, for the person who has wronged you or whom you have wronged. This helps the person you are praying for and you as well. Persevere; it may take awhile. But however long it takes, it is worth it, for by this we gain Paradise.


A very good family habit – the nightly forgiveness

In holy monasteries, at the end of the last service of the day, all the monks ask forgiveness of each other. This can and should be done in families, as well. Before the children go to bed, everyone in the family should bow to everyone else and say, “Forgive me,” and exchange a holy kiss. This way, if we have not dealt with a problem that day, we are forced to deal with it before we go to bed. We forgive, we receive forgiveness, and we can sleep in peace.