Forgiveness and Understanding

In his book The Holy Longing, Fr. Ronald Rolheiser imagines this scenario:

You are sitting one night with your family. You are irritated, overtired and underappreciated. Something happens to push you beyond your patience and you suddenly lose your temper. You yell at everyone, tell them they are selfish and stupid, throw your coffee across the room, and stamp out, violently slamming the door to punctuate your anger. Then you sit in your room, alienated and feeling utterly and helplessly alone. Slowly, sanity and contrition overcome self-pity, but wounded pride and the rawness of what has just happened make it too embarrassing for you to go back and apologize. Eventually, you fall asleep, leaving things in that unreconciled state.

The next morning, now doubly contrite and somewhat sheepish, but still wounded in pride, you come to the family table. Everyone is sitting there having breakfast. You pick up your coffee cup (which didn’t break and someone has washed and returned to its hook!), pour yourself some coffee, and without saying a word, sit down at the table — your remorse and your wounded pride showing in every move. Your family is not stupid and neither are you. Everyone knows what this means. What is essential is being said, without words. You are making the basic move toward reconciliation; your body and your actions are saying something more important than words: I want to be part of you again.  At that moment, the haemorrhaging stops (even if only for that moment). If you dropped dead on the spot, you would be reconciled with your family.

Real love creates a climate where forgiveness and understanding are readily given and received. In all his parables on forgiveness and reconciliation, Jesus calls anyone who would be his disciples to be committed to the work of reconciliation, to be always ready and willing to make the first move toward forgiveness, to be actively engaged in the work of creating community. Forgiveness is not easy: it means overcoming our own anger and outrage at the injustice waged against us and focusing our concern, instead, on the person who wronged us and ruptured our relationship with him/her; it means possessing the humility to face the hurt we have inflicted on others as a result of our insensitivity and self-centeredness. But only in forgiving and seeking forgiveness are we able to realize the possibility of bringing healing and new life to a pained and grieving situation. Christ calls us to create within our families and communities a safe place where forgiveness is joyfully offered and humbly but confidently sought.