We have entered the days of pre-Lent has started. These are the Sundays when we remember Zacheus, the publican and the pharisee and the prodigal son.
When I was a trainee in the military, I had an instructor who was on everyone’s case. He was particularly obnoxious to the female students. He treated us as though we were useless who needed to sit at the feet of those wiser and more experienced who were ordained to fill us with the knowledge we required. We called him Motormouth.
Years later, I started a new posting in Ottawa. Soon after, I saw Captain Motormouth in the hallway. I turned around and walked the other way, regressing back to the cringing cadet under a barrage of constant criticism. How was I supposed to deal with this man who was now my co-worker? How could I face him with resentment boiling up inside of me? Fortunately, he worked in a different section so any interactions I might have with him would be few and far between.
Then I went to the workplace gym. Captain Motormouth was a dedicated daily gym user.
Forgiveness has the power to heal the world.
When my own children were growing up and a ‘conflict of interests’ occurred, I would insist the participants hug each other and say sorry. Though this wasn’t true forgiveness, and I knew darn well plotting and thoughts of payback were still percolating in young minds, I had this vague belief that just saying the words and acting as if they were sorry even if only for a minute, would have some positive effect on both their relationships and on their development. Seeds of forgiveness needed to be planted early and I was beginning to learn as my young children forgave me as well as each other.
Forgiveness is the very basis of the Christian Faith.
This is becomes more apparent to me as I grow within the Orthodox Church. Like everyone, over the years, I have taken offence. Whether it was given purposely or accidentally makes no difference. The hurt has become part of me and sits there attracting other ‘offences’ and preventing me from moving on. Any sympathy agreeing ‘I’m right to feel as I do’, suggestions of ‘righteous anger’ just feeds resentment, increases anger and puts up shields, to avoid future hurts.
Forgiveness is very hard to do.
I truly want to forgive others and be forgiven, but every time I feel the slightest bit of satisfaction at someone’s failure; whether a family member who could do no wrong or an abusive former boss, or I secretly resent someone for their success as though it is going to diminish my own, I know I have no forgiveness. Even reading tantalizing bits of celebrity gossip with a degree of satisfaction shows I have a long way to go.
I try to see Christ in everyone and knowing His forgiveness is fully available to me, I need to fully forgive everyone, believer or not.
“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” Matt 25:45. When I forgive, I am forgiven.
During Orthodox Lent, our daily services include the Prayer of St. Ephraim;
“O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk.
But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen.”
It is where I need to begin for true forgiveness to become part of me. Every time I think uncharitable thoughts about the driver who just cut me off in traffic, let me remember my own driving rudeness. Next time I’m impatient with the person walking too slowly in front of me, let me remember the times I have held up others. When I become exasperated with the tone of a conversation, let me remember the number of times I have offended others with my forceful opinions.
Chastity, humility, patience and love are my goals. My signposts are joy in other’s successes, empathy with their failures, and listening carefully and without offence to what they say.
And so I begin; please forgive me.