About Forgiveness

Q: I would be grateful if you could clarify one of the attitudes in Session 1 of the e-course “Forgiveness- Growth in Love“.  It reads: “If I forgive it means “they got away with it”.  I am aware of the need to let go of the need to be right if I want to change.  Is it o.k. to acknowledge for myself that the other person contributed to this hurt in some way? Otherwise I may think the hurt was all my malfunction.

Fr. Carl:

I think it’s important to have a good understanding of what Contemplative Outreach’s Prayer of Forgiveness is founded on. It is founded on the practice of Centering Prayer. Centering Prayer is both a relationship and also a purification. As one practices Centering Prayer – a prayer of consenting to God‘s presence in action in our lives – the virtue of letting go is intensified. The prayer of forgiveness is energized by one’s openness to let go, consent and trust in the work of the Holy Spirit.

The prayer first deals with what’s going on within oneself in regard to a person or event. It is part of the human condition for us to replay  the hurtful event over and over in our imagination as we think about it and try to analyze it. We are not in the analyzing business in this prayer.

It plays like a Wagnerian opera within our being and the hurt intensifies. That is why the first part of the prayer,, as you notice, begins with getting in touch with one’s inner being, gently working your way to the heart which for some is the inner room referred to in Matt 6:6. “…when you pray, go to your inner room, close the door and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will repay you.”

The walls of this inner room are saturated with months, years of Centering Prayer and the consenting to ‘let go and let God’.

You invite the person and yourself in the presence of the Holy Spirit into this inner room, this sacred space and follow the steps.

To approach the process of forgiveness by simply trying to figure it out on the level of reason will fail. Forgiveness doesn’t make sense. It makes for freedom. To approach it only from the viewpoint of the Divine will also fail because you have to deal with what’s going on within yourself. You cannot cover over the event with pious platitudes.

There is a famous saying, “to err is human to forgive is divine.” This is a profound and inspired statement. I recommend you spend some time to read, to reflect, to respond in prayer and rest with this phrase ala Lectio Divina. It can be very helpful.

When I give this workshop on forgiveness I invite people to consider a number of things: Do you really want to forgive? Do you want to learn to forgive? Are you ready to let go and be free? What more do you have to figure out before you are willing to let go? Let me teach you a new way, a contemplative way.

When everything is said and done, just practice the forgiveness prayer without trying to figure it all out – trust the work of God in this process. You have everything to gain – freedom – freedom.

And please remember that forgiveness doesn’t happen by your efforts alone. To err is human to forgive is Divine”; you cannot do it without the grace of God, trust me. The prayer of forgiveness is energized by one’s openness to let go, consent and trust in the work of the Holy Spirit.

I hope this was of some help.

In my prayers, Fr Carl