Forgiveness from a Christian perspective

Father Kendrick Forbes says it lies at the heart of the gospel

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone, according to the Lord.

Father Kendrick Forbes said people are meant to take note of what the Lord does not say – and that is if someone hurts you, put up with it, suffer it, endure it, and take it on the chin.

Forbes, who spoke at the Catholic Archdiocese of Nassau’s City-Wide Lenten Mission, said the Lord said to address it, even though he acknowledged that forgiveness is difficult and never easy. The greater the hurt, the more challenging it is to forgive.

He outlined a three-stage process for how, from a Christian standpoint, it is to take place.

“Go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If speaking to the individual alone does not work, our Lord says take one or two other people, and if that fails, our Lord says tell the Church. By that, He does not mean the whole world, but rather, the community of those who care about that person, who are motivated also by love,” said Forbes.

“Forgiveness lies at the heart of the gospel. It is at the heart of all Christian doctrine. One cannot be a Christian without striving to forgive. Forgiveness is not optional for the disciple of Christ.”

Speaking at the Mission at Loyola Hall on Gladstone Road, Forbes said there are certain principles that are foundational to their lives as Christians.

“Every Sunday, we recite in the Creed some of the core values of our Catholic faith – things we must believe, in order to be true to our identity as Catholic Christians. But in addition to what we recite in the Creed, there are certain virtues or values without which we cannot be true to our baptismal call. They are foundational to the Christian way.”

He said there are certain values/virtues that Jesus made so basic to his articulation of what his followers should be about. And that all Christians are called to love. And that love is one of the hallmarks of the faith.

Forbes said the call to holiness is another essential characteristic of the faith.

“Forgiveness is not unique to our Christian faith.”

He said the life of the disciple is to imitate the master.

“The life of Jesus was a life of forgiveness. Some of his last words from the cross was about forgiveness: ‘Father forgive them.’”

The truth, he said, is that no community – whether family, the church, or the wider community – can flourish and thrive without forgiveness.

“Forgiveness lies at the heart of the gospel. It is at the heart of all Christian doctrine. One cannot be a Christian without striving to forgive. Forgiveness is not optional for the disciple of Christ.”

He said one of the sad realities of the time is that the world has grown angrier, and people have become less forgiving.

“One need only read social media and you will see the disappearance of forgiveness. Social media for all its good also has a shadow or dark side – the vindictiveness, the shaming, the vitriol, the canceling of people that takes place on social media leads to the disappearance of forgiveness. The result is not a better society, not a more just society, but a cold, dog-eat-dog world.”

Forbes acknowledged that people have all been wronged.

“We may not hurt others intentionally, we may not even be aware of how our words or actions hurt another, but no one goes through life without hurting someone. People hurt people.”

What forgiveness isn’t and is, and can do

The priest said forgiveness is not about ignoring the hurt, pain, and anger that one feels.

“There are some pains in life too awful to pretend that they do not exist. But what forgiveness does is channel our natural emotional reactions away from the human tendency to hostility, resentment, and revenge. Forgiveness is not pretending that something never happened. That is called living in denial. You cannot forgive what you deny exists. You can only forgive what you acknowledge. Forgiveness does not deny the person’s wrongdoing or turn a blind eye to their action against us. We can only truly forgive others when we see sin for what it really is.”

He said forgiveness does not mean people are not held accountable. And that forgiveness is not opposed to justice, but goes beyond justice.

“It does not mean we whitewash or ignore the actions of another, [or] fail to hold them to account. As Christians, we believe that actions have consequences.”

He said the husband who is physically abusive to his wife cannot say to her that she has to forgive him 70 times seven, while continuing to hit her. Forbes said the husband needs to stop being abusive, or needs to move out, or be arrested.

“Forgiveness is not some kind of approval that let’s bad people keep doing bad things. Forgiveness does not mean we let people use us or take advantage of us. Forgiveness is about setting boundaries.”

He also said forgiveness is not forgetting.

“Forgive and forget may sound like a nice catchy slogan but it has little basis in reality.”

He said it is psychologically impossible.

“The minute you make up your mind to forget something – in most instances, it is the one thing that lingers in your mind. We human beings cannot just simply wipe our memories clean as if nothing happened. In fact, there are some things we should remember – not to nurse grudges, not to seek vengeance, but we remember so as not to repeat. We remember, so we don’t allow ourselves to be a doormat.”

Forbes said forgiveness does not mean forgetting, but it does mean refusing, by God’s grace, to let anger and pain consume. In marriages, families and churches, reconciliation, restored relationships, he said, is what they strive for, but that forgiveness does not always lead to reconciliation. He said sometimes forgiveness without reconciliation can happen.

In order for a relationship to be reconciled, both parties must come to the table. He said reconciliation can only happen when there is mutual commitment on the parts of both the injured party and the offender. Some people, Forbes said, will never acknowledge the hurt that they have caused but people can still forgive. He said forgiveness does not require reconciliation, nor does it need an apology, and can happen without those things.

The priest said forgiveness is the willingness to live without bitterness and rancor and hatred. And that to forgive someone requires not throwing their actions into their face, not holding it over their heads to shame or manipulate them, but, instead, burying the hatchet and not marking the spot.

“To forgive means to choose to take someone we have been holding in resentment and bitterness and releasing them from it. Forgiveness is not a feeling, not an emotion – it is a choice. Forgiveness is something you do [and is] not necessarily something you feel, [just as] Christianity is fundamentally a set of practices and not necessarily about feelings.”

Becoming better Catholics he said means practicing the faith. People forgive he said by practicing forgiveness.

“Forgiveness is a decision … a choice,” said Forbes.

And he said forgiveness frees people.

“Some withhold forgiveness because they assume that in forgiving the person, they are giving them a gift they don’t deserve – setting them free.”

The truth he said is that forgiveness is the gift a person gives themselves. And that when they hold on to resentments, nurse grudges, and stay trapped in wrong that was done to them, it leaves them trapped in the past.

Catholics came together to renew and recharge their faith at its first in-person city-wide Lenten Mission in the COVID era, under the theme “Walking Together in Faith and Gratitude”.

Inviting members of the faith to a deeper meditation or reflection on their Lenten journey was the main purpose of Mission.

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Shavaughn Moss

Shavaughn Moss joined The Nassau Guardian as a sports reporter in 1989. She was later promoted to sports editor. Shavaughn covered every major athletic championship from the CARIFTA to Central American and Caribbean Championships through to World Championships and Olympics. Shavaughn was appointed as the Lifestyles Editor a few years later.

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