I am a regular contributor to the Danbury News Times Forum on Faith column, which is also picked up by the Connecticut Post and the Stamford Advocate.
This article that came out last Saturday is a revised and improved version of a previous blog post of mine you may have read. Unfortunately there were a few edits in my polished up version done by the newspaper that I don’t care for – which you can read online here and here and here – or read my own new version (pre-hacked) below:
Forgiving as You Want to Be Forgiven
Throughout my life I have had many opportunities to forgive people. My indispensable go-to approach in these situations is to follow Jesus’ example on the cross when he magnanimously said, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.”
This stance is enormously helpful whenever I am the brunt of someone’s inconceivable and hurtful actions. It can be a relatively easy place to get to since it clearly doesn’t condone wrongful action, while still holding a place for the other person to do better. And finding this simple and genuine way to let go of the situation improves the impact on your own life as well.
But even though I can readily forgive others, I still find it very hard to forgive myself. Some say I am carte blanche forgiven because Jesus died on the cross, but he demanded that we “Go and sin no more.” So if I’ve done something wrong and not only regretted it, but reformed in such a way to no longer do it, why do I still have a hard time forgiving myself?
What if I am still feeling the effects of a long ago sin, mistake, or stupidity? The phrase in the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors,” has held a clue for me. Am I forgiving in the way that I want to be forgiven?
Well, yes, partly. I’d like to be forgiven on the basis that I must not have known what I was doing; that is certainly better than no forgiveness at all. It makes sense that if I known how to be better I would have been better. But if I really think about it, I want more than that.
I want to be forgiven to the extent that my erroneous actions have absolutely no lasting negative effect– on myself or others. So how do I forgive others in a way that revises, expunges, erases, and nullifies any hint of wrongdoing? If that’s what I want to receive, then that’s what I must do.
And here is where my new thinking kicks in, which I’m trying to grow into. Ponder this: no matter what you or someone else did that needs to be forgiven, it never even happened in the Kingdom of Heaven. And the Kingdom of Heaven is not some far off, exalted, power-washed place, but it is, as the Bible repeatedly states, “at hand.” Jesus also says it is within us.
I am convinced that in the Kingdom of Heaven we are all innocent, upright, unfettered and free, with a clean slate in every breath. I’m trying to own the fact that this is true from God’s perspective right now, regardless of whether we think we deserve it.
I’m trying to see, acknowledge, and embrace this special reality as the only truth about others, since that’s what I hope for in return. If we are living out from the Kingdom of Omnipotent Good within ourselves, we no longer fear sin or are mesmerized into doing its bidding. And if we can perceive and uphold that Kingdom as present and supreme – even though it is excruciatingly difficult to do so– we will be blessed.
God’s mercy is ever-present and it is clear that no bad effect can remain from any error that has been rooted out, corrected, and forgiven to its very core.
These are resurrection thoughts! This is a new world to reside in, and I’ve just begun this exciting and transformational adventure.
By Polly Castor, a Christian Science practitioner and member of First Church of Christ, Scientist, Ridgefield. She can be reached at PollyCastor@gmail.com