“He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.” - Martin Luther King
Imagine that someone hurts you then sincerely apologizes to you some time later. Now, imagine that your response is something like this: “It’s fine. Don’t worry about it. I don’t even care any more.” This probably sounds at least vaguely familiar to many of us. It does to me.
When’s the last time you forgave someone? I mean, really forgave someone? Truth is, I think we often confuse apathy and forgiveness. Apathy feels better because not caring doesn’t require anything more. Someone hurts you, you refuse to care and, voilà!, just like that, it’s over. Case closed. Story finished. The end (or so we think*). But forgiveness is something more. Forgiveness calls us back into the pain. When we forgive, we must reengage the hurt and sift through the mess. It requires us to return, together, to the place where the blow was dealt in order to acknowledge its harm and begin the hard work of reconciliation. Each time one person hurts another, reconciliation is necessary. This is the essence of forgiveness. Our sins against one another act to deteriorate our view of humanity as a whole and reconciliation is the only remedy for this deterioration. From premeditated murder to a child’s white lie, all of it works toward the breakdown of human relationships. Each and every time we hurt another human being, our hearts grow just a little more calloused to the truth that we are in fact hurting the whole of God’s good creation, ourselves included. And so forgiveness is in essence that which reorients us to see one another properly. Paul writes this in his letter to the Colossians: “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Easier said than done, I know. But let us try.
*Apathy is a dark chamber, fortified and safe from all emotional weight and responsibility. But it is a lonely chamber, with no windows to let the light in. The more we visit the chamber of apathy, the more our eyes will grow accustomed to the darkness of emotional void and it will become increasingly difficult, painful even, to open our eyes to see the light of love. So don’t go there. It’s cold and it sucks.