In the Our Father, Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” But forgiveness is often easier said than done. What makes forgiveness so hard? And how can we approach our hurts and wounds to make forgiveness a little bit easier?
Fr. Ethan Southard recently stopped by The Inner Life™ to discuss the topic of forgiveness, why it is necessary, and why we can be so reluctant to forgive.
“It’s difficult,” he acknowledged. “And it’s almost against our nature. Because when we start speaking about forgiving we’re speaking about offenses. And when someone has taken offense against us, or we’ve taken offense against someone else, there’s something that has been broken. And when something has been broken, it’s our nature to protect ourselves, to defend ourselves, and to put up a barrier so we don’t get hurt again.”
“So the very notion of forgiving someone, it’s saying that’s being healed, that’s being taken care of, and that we could let go. And that’s a scary thing. … If we’ve been hurt, if we’ve been broken, how are we able to give something when we’ve been wounded? That’s the difficult part. That’s where we really need God’s grace and God’s love. It comes down to that.”
Something that makes forgiveness so scary is that there is still the real possibility that you will be hurt again. Especially if the person who hurt you hasn’t apologized, or shown that they will change in the future, it can seem like forgiveness is letting the other person off the hook. But Fr. Ethan pointed out that forgiveness isn’t dependent on the other person’s actions, it’s something we can take control of for our own emotional and spiritual health.
“Forgiveness isn’t dependent upon somebody asking me, ‘Will you forgive me?’ Forgiveness is something that is within our heart,” Fr. Ethan said. “It’s something that we are releasing. Because when someone has done something against you, when someone has offended you or hurt you, there actually is a burden or a debt that is owed, because they have done something wrong. And so we hold onto that debt. It’s a very real thing. But forgiveness is releasing what you are owed.”
He explained that turning our hurts, our wounds, and the debts owed to us over to God can release us from that burden and free us from bitterness, resentment, and anger. And the Lord understands the hurt that others can cause us, because when someone sins against us they sin against Him too.
“The reality is, when we’re talking about sin it’s not just an offense against you when somebody has sinned or done something wrong. It’s also an offense against God,” Fr. Ethan said. “And so if we are releasing that and we give it to God we say, ‘God, I forgive this person for what they have done to me. I can’t fix it, I can’t change the situation, I can’t change the history. This is way beyond me. So I’m going to release it to you. I’m going to give it to you, God.'”
Listen to the full conversation below: