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The Art of Forgiveness Forgiving vs. Reunion Whose business is it anyway?

Session 2
Text Notes

WHAT ARE WE DEALING WITH? 1. Forgiving does not obligate us to go back. Reunion is sometimes impossible. Circumstances may prevent us from being reunited. Forgiving happens regardless of circumstances; for a reunion, the circumstances have to be right. Reunion is sometimes harmful. Being forgiven does not qualify a person to be a friend, a husband, or a partner. And if he does not qualify, we are better off to walk away and heal ourselves alone. Reunion may be such a threat that it prevents a wounded person from forgiving. 2. Forgiving does not mean restoring. All of our human idols fall, sooner or later. Some of them repent. Some of those who repent get forgiven. So far so good. But should they be set back on their pedestals? Should we give them their old jobs back? As usual, the answer is: It all depends. Forgiving has to be done (1) in the right way and (2) for the right reason and (3) at the right time, and above all (4) by the right person. Page 38. HOW DO WE FORGIVE? To qualify for forgiving we need only to meet three requirements. ? We need to bear the wounds ourselves. ? We need to know we have been wronged . ? We need to have an inner push to forgive. 1. We must bear the wounds ourselves. Christ once told his disciples that whatever they forgave on earth God would forgive in heaven. An amazing assertion. But why not? When any person forgives another, he or she does what God does. So, if we forgive someone who hurt us, why may we not count on it that God forgives him, too? What good does it really do us to forgive people if God is still holding a grudge against them? But if we can forgive on behalf of God, can we ever forgive someone on behalf of a fellow human being who is not around to do it for himself? Why not? Page 38f. 2. To be a qualified forgiver you must be a wronged person. Discerning people have an eye for moral differences. When someone hurts them accidentally, they accept it as one of the risks

of living around clumsy people. But when they realize that it was no accident, that the person who hurt them knew what he was up to, they know that they were not only wounded, they were wronged besides. This is the kind of moral discernment that qualifies a person for forgiving. We are wronged if a friend betrays our secrets, or a parent abuses us, or a partner steals from us, or a colleague lies about us and costs us a promotion. We are wronged whenever someone gets us to trust him and then uses our trust to exploit us. Page 42f. 3. We need the inner push to forgive. I am certain that people never forgive because they believe they have an obligation to do it or because someone told them to do it. Forgiveness has to come from inside as a desire of the heart. Wanting to is the steam that pushes the forgiving engine. We forgive when we feel a strong wish to be free from the pain that glues us to a bruised moment of the past. We forgive when we want to overcome the resentment that separates us from the person who wounded us. We forgive when we feel Gods Spirit nudging us with an impulse to pull ourselves out of the sludge of our disabling resentment. We forgive when we are ready to move toward a future unshackled from a painful past we cannot undo. Where does the desire to forgive come from? I believe that every ordinary human desire to redeem the past comes from God, the source of all redeeming graces. So one way to get the desire is to be in touch with God. The hitch is that if we do not want it, we are not likely to ask for it. But we are double-minded creatures. We all know what it is like to ferociously want something at one level and fearfully not want it at another level. And the odd thing is that sometimes the more we want something, the more we abhor the thought of having it. It is often this way with forgiving. Page 44f. IN SUMMARY We are qualified to forgive if we meet these three requirements: We were wounded. We were wronged. We have a desire to forgive. This is all we know and all we need to know about our qualifications for forgiving. Page 46
The Art of Forgiving: When You Need to Forgive and Dont Know How by Lewis B. Smedes, Copyright 1996