One of our biggest struggles today, according to many modern spiritual fathers, is our inability (or lack of desire) to let go of the wrongs which have been done to us. We hold on to our resentments, we nurture them, we continue to suffer from them, often for many years after the time of the initial offense. In a word, we fail to “forgive our debtors.”

Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, as the old (wrong) cliche goes. Memory is a natural function of our brains. It also doesn’t mean that a particular relationship returns to a “pre-offense” state – there are consequences for our actions. Forgiveness means that we let go of our passions – we let go of our hurt and our anger over a particular situation. This can be difficult, especially if our hurt is deep or long standing. Letting go of remembrance of wrongs requires not only our sincere desire to do so, but also the grace of God to help us.

As a place to begin, St John writes:
“When, after much struggling, you are still unable to extract this thorn, you should apologize to your enemy, even if only in word. Then perhaps you may be ashamed of your longstanding insincerity towards him, and, as your conscience stings you like fire, you may feel perfect love towards him” (9:11).

He also gives us a hint of what overcoming this passion looks likes:
“You will know that you have completely freed yourself of this rot (vice), not when you pray for the person who has offended you, not when you pray for the person who has offended you, nor when you exchange presents with him, nor when you invite him to your table, but only when, on hearing that he has fallen into spiritual or bodily misfortune, you suffer and weep for him as for yourself” (9:12).

May God grant us the grace to truly desire to forgive those who offend us, and to be able to do so by the grace of the Lord.

Matthew Jackson