Catholic Commute S01E47 4 Steps to forgiving a wrong

Forgiveness is actually about helping yourself - not the other person

There are few things I struggle with more than forgiveness.  It’s one thing when someone accidentally drops a chair on your toe – that’s understandable (but annoying!)  It’s quite another thing when someone deliberately insults and ridicules you in public.  Yet, we are called to forgive the latter much more strongly than the former.

If this sounds difficult to you (and as I share my story, it was difficult for me in the recent occurrence as well), then it may help to get some advice.  In my struggles to forgive my recent injury, I needed some help.  In this episode, I offer that help.  There are 4 steps that were helpful for me to forgive this recent incident.  We all have offenses that we don’t want to forgive.  I encourage everyone to consider these 4 reasons, and to forgive.

You can download the .mp3 version here!

Click “Continue Reading” to read the show notes!

Episode 47: 4 steps to find forgiveness for a wrong


Vague story of recent forgiveness


  1. Remember your own sins
    1. Those who have greatly sinned are uniquely capable of great love. Danielle Bean
    2. Compare this to your debt to God
    3. Matthew 18 has parable of the Unforgiving Servant
      1. 10,000 talents = (6000 denarii/talent) 200,000 years pay
      2. 100 denarii = 100 days pay.
  2. Visualize the guilty person as a broken child of God
    1. We are all deeply broken.  We try to live our lives as if these were not true.  We try to project an image of strength and confidence.
    2. In the case of my story, the other had felt rejected and betrayed.  Those feelings were partly valid, but also partly not. Rarely does malice appear by itself.
    3. “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”
      ― Henry David Thoreau
    4. God’s love for your neighbor is greater than you can possibly imagine.  If you cannot love them for their own sake, then love them for His.
  3. Let go of your need for justice
    1. Romanys 12: 19-21 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God;[g] for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
    2. Deuteronomy 32: 35 Vengeance is mine, and recompense,
         for the time when their foot shall slip;
      because the day of their calamity is at hand,
         their doom comes swiftly.
  4. Consider your own sake
    1. Physically Bitterness quote (Nelson Mandela is the oldest source I can find)
    2. We are our own parents – we become what we choose to forge ourselves into
    3. Spiritually in the Our Father we are told explicitly what will happen if we do not forgive.

Essay on Forgiveness
by C.S. Lewis
Macmillian Publishing Company, Inc., N.Y, 1960
We say a great many things in church (and out of church too) without thinking of
what we are saying. For instance, we say in the Creed ” I believe in the
forgiveness of sins.” I had been saying it for several years before I asked myself
why it was in the Creed. At first sight it seems hardly worth putting in. “If one is a
Christian,” I thought ” of course one believes in the forgiveness of sins. It goes
without saying.” But the people who compiled the Creed apparently thought that
this was a part of our belief which we needed to be reminded of every time we
went to church. And I have begun to see that, as far as I am concerned, they were
right. To believe in the forgiveness of sins is not so easy as I thought. Real belief
in it is the sort of thing that easily slips away if we don’t keep on polishing it up.
We believe that God forgives us our sins; but also that He will not do so unless we
forgive other people their sins against us. There is no doubt about the second part
of this statement. It is in the Lord’s Prayer, it was emphatically stated by our Lord.
If you don’t forgive you will not be forgiven. No exceptions to it. He doesn’t say
that we are to forgive other people’s sins, provided they are not too frightful, or
provided there are extenuating circumstances, or anything of that sort. We are to
forgive them all, however spiteful, however mean, however often they are
repeated. If we don’t we shall be forgiven none of our own.
Now it seems to me that we often make a mistake both about God’s forgiveness
of our sins and about the forgiveness we are told to offer to other people’s sins.
Take it first about God’s forgiveness, I find that when I think I am asking God to
forgive me I am often in reality (unless I watch myself very carefully) asking Him to
do something quite different. I am asking him not to forgive me but to excuse me.
But there is all the difference in the world between forgiving and excusing.
Forgiveness says, “Yes, you have done this thing, but I accept your apology; I will
never hold it against you and everything between us two will be exactly as it was
before.” If one was not really to blame then there is nothing to forgive. In that
sense forgiveness and excusing are almost opposites. Of course, in dozens of cases, either between God and man, or between one man and another, there may
be a mixture of the two. Part of what at first seemed to be the sins turns out to be
really nobody’s fault and is excused; the bit that is left over is forgiven. If you had
a perfect excuse, you would not need forgiveness; if the whole of your actions
needs forgiveness, then there was no excuse for it. But the trouble is that what we
call “asking God’s forgiveness” very often really consists in asking God to accept
our excuses. What leads us into this mistake is the fact that there usually is some
amount of excuse, some “extenuating circumstances.” We are so very anxious to
point these things out to God (and to ourselves) that we are apt to forget the very
important thing; that is, the bit left over, the bit which excuses don’t cover, the bit
which is inexcusable but not, thank God, unforgivable. And if we forget this, we
shall go away imagining that we have repented and been forgiven when all that
has really happened is that we have satisfied ourselves without own excuses.
They may be very bad excuses; we are all too easily satisfied about ourselves.
There are two remedies for this danger. One is to remember that God knows all
the real excuses very much better than we do. If there are real “extenuating
circumstances” there is no fear that He will overlook them. Often He must know
many excuses that we have never even thought of, and therefore humble souls
will, after death, have the delightful surprise of discovering that on certain
occasions they sinned much less than they thought. All the real excusing He will
do. What we have got to take to Him is the inexcusable bit, the sin. We are only
wasting our time talking about all the parts which can (we think) be excused.
When you go to a Dr. you show him the bit of you that is wrong – say, a broken
arm. It would be a mere waste of time to keep on explaining that your legs and
throat and eyes are all right. You may be mistaken in thinking so, and anyway, if
they are really right, the doctor will know that.
The second remedy is really and truly to believe in the forgiveness of sins. A great
deal of our anxiety to make excuses comes from not really believing in it, from
thinking that God will not take us to Himself again unless He is satisfied that some
sort of case can be made out in our favor. But that is not forgiveness at all. Real
forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any
excuse, after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt,
meanness, and malice, and nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the man who
has done it.
When it comes to a question of our forgiving other people, it is partly the same
and partly different. It is the same because, here also forgiving does not mean
excusing. Many people seem to think it does. They think that if you ask them to
forgive someone who has cheated or bullied them you are trying to make out that
there was really no cheating or bullying. But if that were so, there would be
nothing to forgive. (This doesn’t mean that you must necessarily believe his next
promise. It does mean that you must make every effort to kill every taste of
resentment in your own heart – every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him
out.) The difference between this situation and the one in which you are asking
God’s forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily, in other
people’s we do not accept them easily enough. As regards my own sins it is a
safe bet (though not a certainty) that the excuses are not really so good as I think;
as regards other men’s sins against me it is a safe bet (though not a certainty)
that the excuses are better than I think. One must therefore begin by attending to
everything which may show that the other man was not so much to blame as we
thought. But even if he is absolutely fully to blame we still have to forgive him; and
even if ninety-nine per cent of his apparent guilt can be explained away by really
good excuses, the problem of forgiveness begins with the one per cent of guilt
that is left over. To excuse, what can really produce good excuses is not Christian
charity; it is only fairness. To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable,
because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.
This is hard. It is perhaps not so hard to forgive a single great injury. But to forgive
the incessant provocations of daily life – to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-inlaw,
the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son
– How can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning
our words when we say in our prayers each night “Forgive our trespasses* as we
forgive those that trespass against us.” We are offered forgiveness on no other
terms. To refuse it is to refuse God’s mercy

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