One of the opening lines of the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Church is “In Peace Let Us Pray to the Lord.” We begin everything we do with peace. So what does peace have to do with forgiveness?
We cannot be at peace if we harbor any hatred toward another person. If we have some old or not so old bad feelings, I will use that term because hatred is a strong term, but if we have strong feelings of dislike toward another person it can be destructive. We need to be able to forgive but forgiveness is very difficult and one of the hardest things we are asked to do as Christians.
The dictionary defines forgiveness as the act of forgiving, or the state of being forgiven. The Dictionary of Pastoral Care and Counseling defines forgiveness as the act of rendering null and void the penalty owed by a wrongdoer to an offended party. The essential element of forgiveness is the wrongdoers’ awareness of having offended and owing a penalty. But forgiveness cannot come with a cost.
What do I mean a cost? We cannot make our forgiveness based on the fact that the other person feels some sense of what they have done wrong. We must be willing to forgive even if the other person is not sorry for what they have done or what they have said. Forgiveness needs to be unconditional on both parties. But forgiveness is what needs to happen.
We have all been hurt in our lives and we call carry this hurt with us in our day to day walk in this world. Each time we are hurt it weighs us down and unless we find the strength within us to forgive it starts to affect us spiritually and physically.
The Sunday before Lent starts in the Orthodox Church is called Forgiveness Sunday. At the end of the Divine Liturgy on this day all of the parishioners come up to each other and ask for forgiveness for anything that they may have done the previous year. This is a very emotional time for many people and it is often enjoyable to watch old friendships restored. Bu there is always one person we forget to forgive. Ourselves!
We have to be able not only to forgive others we must be able to forgive ourselves. We are our own worst critic and it is our face, and no one else’s, that we look at in the mirror each and every morning. If we can truly forgive ourselves then we are on the way to healing all of those old wounds. Make friends with yourself this spring!