“Bless them that curse you”

A growling dog will inevitably make another dog growl in turn or cower in fear. A hissing cat will inevitably make another cat hiss in response or fly up a tree. But people do have a choice when others curse them and swear at them. Yes, they can swear back, which according to biologists, is the human analogue to a dog’s growl and a cat’s hiss. But they can also inhibit that animal instinct as the situation requires, which according to … [Read more...]

Learning How to Apologize for the Sake of Deep Forgiveness

“And I know how difficult it is for anyone, and most of all you, but I think that people need to hear it and I think unless you say it you are going to be haunted by it for the rest of your life.” Interviewer David Frost addressed these words to former President Richard Nixon in 1977 during their historic interview regarding Watergate. In asking the President to apologize, Frost recognizes the power of a sincere apology for both parties. In … [Read more...]

Guilt and Forgiveness

Guilt fascinates people. Guilt in others arouses our curiosity. Guilt in ourselves prompts us to do something to assuage our guilty feelings. We all make mistakes that we could have avoided, mistakes that we feel responsible for, mistakes that have consequences that we regret. And our thoughts about those mistakes can take the form of guilt that in the best of scenarios includes an admission of wrongdoing, a feeling of responsibility, and desire … [Read more...]

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies.”

People want to be safe in a world in which they know what to expect. And it seems reasonable to love our neighbors who can protect us when we are in trouble and hate our enemies who have already established themselves as a threat to our well-being. And yet, Christ calls us to go out into the deep, “over seventy thousands fathoms of water” as Kierkegaard once put it, where we are to live by faith, not so that we can protect ourselves, but so that … [Read more...]

Shame and Forgiveness

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Shame is an emotion that has darkened the contours of human existence from the dawn of time. It is a painful feeling from which we are tempted to flee and hide, because in exposing our nakedness and vulnerability, we feel humiliated rather than humbled, degraded rather than modest, entrapped, rather than embraced. In such a state, it is hard to see anyone else or feel for anyone else, much less move towards someone in a spirit of … [Read more...]

Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away”

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Being Christian entails a metamorphosis that takes place through knowing oneself, knowing one’s God, and knowing one’s neighbor. In this knowledge, a person becomes warmly compassionate, tenderly loving, and lavishly generous. Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol portraying Ebeneezer Scrooge provides a literary parable about how such knowledge can turn a cold-hearted, tight-fisted miser into a warm-hearted, open-handed friend of all. Firestone, … [Read more...]

The Way Towards Forgiveness and the Way of Denial

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Genuine forgiveness requires rigorous honesty. That is why there is perhaps no greater obstacle to forgiveness than denial, for when we deny that an offense has occurred, when we refuse to admit that the offended is a valuable human being, or when we minimize the consequences of our wrongs, we are denying ourselves the possibility of looking within, of taking responsibility for our actions, of amending our misdeeds, and of changing in a direction … [Read more...]

“And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.”

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Human beings conserve their energy, both physical and mental, so that they will be able to use it when a valuable goal appears on the horizon. Of course, when motivated properly, we are willing and ready to think hard about a situation and put considerable physical effort into attaining a goal that is in our best interests. Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, however, puts a different twist on what our best interests are, how we look at what we own, … [Read more...]

Forgiveness of Wrongs and the Remembrance of Wrongs

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Statements such as “I will forgive, but I won’t forget” and “Forgive your enemies but never forget their names” are oft-quoted phrases that remain popular to this day. They represent a tip of the hat to the virtue of forgiveness while reserving the full rights to nurse the offense well into the future. While some will view such an attitude as practical in a world where self-preservation is paramount, these sentiments aren’t supported by … [Read more...]

Forgiveness, Penance, and the Passage of Time

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If it’s true that forgiveness is an essential part of healthy living , are there any circumstances when forgiveness may be denied or at the least withheld for a period of time? Forgiveness can bring reconciliation, healing, peace and many gifts, but is it always beneficial for the forgiver and the forgiven? Does it always make people into better human beings ready to responsibly face the world and embrace important values? In other words, can the … [Read more...]