Forgiveness

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Mar 16, 2009 by Howard Baker | 0 Comments

We all have wounds. We all live in pain and disappointment. We all have feelings of loneliness that lurk beneath all our successes, feelings of uselessness that hide under all the praise, feelings of meaninglessness even when people say we are fantastic—and that is what makes us sometimes grab onto people and expect from them affection, affirmation, and love that they cannot give. If we want other people to give us something that only God can give, we are guilty of idolatry.

...Our heart longs for satisfaction, for total communion. But human beings, whether it’s your husband, your wife , your father, mother, brother, sister, or child, are all limited in giving the level of love and acceptance we all crave. But since we want so much and we get only part of what we want, we have to keep on forgiving people for not giving us all we want. So, I forgive you since you can only love me in a limited way. I forgive my mother that she is not everything I would like for her to be. I forgive my father because he did the best he could. This is of enormous importance right now because constantly people look to blame their parents, their friends, and the church for not giving them what they need. Many people are so angry. They cannot forgive people for offering only limited expressions of an unlimited love. God’s love is unlimited; our love is not. Any relationship you enter into—in communion, friendship, marriage, community or church—will always be riddled with frustration and disappointment. So forgiveness becomes the word for divine love in the human context.

Community is not possible without the willingness to forgive one another “seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22). Forgiveness is the cement of community life. Forgiveness holds us all together through good and bad times, and it allows us to grow in mutual love.

As people who have hearts that long for perfect love, we have to forgive one another for not being able to give or receive that perfect love in our everyday lives. Our many needs constantly interfere with our desire to be there for the other unconditionally. Our love is always limited by spoken or unspoken conditions. What needs to be forgiven? We need to forgive one another for not being God!

- Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith, p.119-120

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