Forgiveness is an interesting topic, one that is singularly easy to understand, yet wrought with complexity the second one adds the human condition to the equation. Jesus tells us to forgive until it hurts, and then do it some more. There is no forgiveness statute of limitations. I would think the reason we have to forgive so much, so often is because God forgives. Would it be fair if He forgave the thief the first three times, but didn’t the fourth? We would all be in a heap of trouble if that were so. Our duty to forgive always, is representative of the endless capacity for God to forgive us all. I think that is pretty deep.
If we look at ourselves in the mirror and see the reflection, who are we looking at? The person who is guilty of making mistakes, or the person who doesn’t make any? Kind of an interesting exercise. Catholics often self-brand themselves, and each other as guilty of sin, sometimes in a comical way; there are many jokes that go along with that idea. There is also often a sliver of truth in most jokes. The case holds true here, a sliver of truth in all of us being guilty. Well, being loosely affiliated with Catholicism, Lutheran’s can own some of those same jokes, even if we Lutheran’s don’t own the market on jokes about guilt. Why is that? Why do people feel guilty? I would say the reason is that because we are humans created by God, we all (should) feel guilt if we kill someone, if we do anything out of the will of God. If it feels like I have gotten off track with forgiveness, I apologize, but I think no conversation of forgiveness can be had without mentioning guilt. I was guilty today. I need to ask God for forgiveness by confessing to Him what I did wrong, and what I did wrong, and wasn’t aware of. As a Christian, I need to go before the lord, and ask him to forgive me. There is a song by country western singer Randy Travis titled “I’m gonna have a little talk with Jesus”, it is one of my favorites. It talks about guilt, and the restored relationship with God each time he prays. It’s a great tune, and if you like genre of music, I would guess you’ll like it too. I would even think if you didn’t like the genre of music, you might like it. I digress.
I think the capacity to forgive is more for the person who forgives, than for the person receiving forgiveness. “What?!” you say. Yes, that’s what I think. Take for example the real story of my mother, born in 1938, in Germany. A quick run through of your history, and you would find that time frame had her squarely involved in WWII, even though she was just a child. She has vivid memories of the war, tragic, and traumatic memories. In fact the village she grew up in has memorials with the names of all the men who died during WWI and WWII. This is a village that has what looks to be thousands of names. Can you imagine? Sparing the details, she and her friends had a choice to make when the war ended: forgive or don’t forgive. I know some of her friends that did not forgive, and sadly they have lived what I would call bankrupt lives; angry (and rightly so) about the loss, the memories, the trauma. I get the impression some her friends still harbor a good deal of anger that they took to their graves. My mom, bless her heart, chose to forgive, to let go, to not harbor the anger and frustration. She never forgot, but she never let the pain rule her life either. She made a conscious decision to let it go, to forgive. She has been a happier, healthier person for it.
I have taken the lesson that my mom taught me, and applied it to my own guilt complex. We all make mistakes, some small, others incomprehensible. My own view of the world is that we all let people down, we do horrible things to each other in the name of power, greed, money, and revenge to name but a few. It doesn’t’ matter as to the reasons why we do things, but the fact remains that we do. We are also capable of amazingly beautiful things, gestures to our fellow people, acts of kindness. It often goes un-reported, un-rewarded. Why is that? The good we do often flies under the radar. That may be a post in of itself, but to be honest, good doesn’t sell news papers.
I could spend the rest of my life describing the frailty of the human condition, but I’d rather take the guilt that comes from doing wrong, drop to my knees, and ask forgiveness, and live in the promise that I’m forgiven. Why? The simple answer is that I can’t control what others do or think. I can influence, but I can’t control. I can, however, control what I do, and what I think. When I make mistakes I can ask the lord to show me the error in my ways. I have the power to forgive, even if I don’t know how to. I have the power of a relationship with God. That is the most important thing, my relationship with God. I guess the bottom line is that a person could do a lot to me, and I hope I have the capacity to forgive. If I don’t then God and I have something to work on, and God doesn’t leave unfinished business.
Our ability and capacity to forgive is only limited by our relationship with God, or our willingness to seek the lord for guidance. He gave my mom the ability to change her mind. That act alone, one that she has spent her life working on, has freed her to be happy. We must also forgive, as that allows us to be forgiven. It would be difficult for me to ask for forgiveness if I harbored anger towards people that ‘Did me wrong!’ I would simply be an angry person without hope of something better. Being angry isn’t a good way to go about living. Being a Christian isn’t a guarantee of an easy life. Far from it. The ability to forgive is a difficult task, but if God tells us to forgive without limit, I’d be hard pressed to argue that he’s wrong. I can say this from personal experience, that life is better when you take the time to forgive.
© 2012 Kurt Alderman, The Jimmy Monologues