The struggle to forgive is a very human one. Our species seems to have built into it a fundamental sense of justice that is disturbed by wrongdoing. This is a good thing!
It may help to first recognize how important justice is to us. We yearn for fairness, equity, to safeguard one another’s well-being and our own from harm. We can embrace this desire as holy, part of the glue that helps us love one another and ourselves.
Yet this same sense of justice can imprison us, hold us captive to never-ending score keeping, as we hold others and ourselves hostage to the wrongs done. Some of us hold fast to our grievances like badges of honor, keeping score at each slight or possible offense. Some of us long to forgive yet are haunted by hurts that seem beyond reconciliation.
I don’t know how forgiveness works. I cannot fathom its source or operation. I only know that I cannot create it. I cannot summon or conjure forgiveness out of nothing. All I do know is that the Holy One who knows the hidden hearts of each one of us pours out compassion on the whole world.
My work, then, is not to somehow reach deep into my heart and pull out forgiveness, but to participate in God’s overflowing mercy, let it pour through my life, let it soak through me. And then let it overflow to others. God, not I, is the Source of forgiveness. I can start here, resting in God’s compassion and mercy.
Try this experiment: visualize yourself before God, receiving the radiant compassion God pours over you. Rest in this for a bit. Then bring into this visualization a person with whom you struggle or whom you find hard to forgive. Let God’s radiant compassion pour over that person as you simply participate in the flow.