Definition of forgiveness


I am giving a talk at an upcoming prison retreat this month. My talk topic is on "forgiveness".

I would welcome examples and your definition of forgiveness, in particular how it has played out in your life.

In particular, those of you who have enjoyed the peace that comes from truly forgiving those who have hurt you, and that wonderful forgiveness feeling that comes from completing a good confession.


Not Only has he ransomed us from sin and death, but he has taught us to put the will of God above all personal plans, to live detached from everything, to know how to pardon, even when the offender has not repented, to know how to forgive others, to be apostles until the very moment of death, to suffer without sterile lament, to love men although one is suffering because of them…In Conversation with God 2.46.1

Jimmy Akin: The Limits of Forgiveness

My response to Jimmy Akin:

“It is not any cleverly invented myths that were are repeating when we brought you the knowledge of the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ;”
 God does not treat us as we truly deserve but grants us his forgiveness.
 I believe in the forgiveness of sins.
 The Church must be able to forgive all penitents their offenses, even if they should sin until the last moment of their lives
 we forgive those who trespass against us
This "as" is not unique in Jesus' teaching: "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect"; "Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful"; "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." It is impossible to keep the Lord's commandment by imitating the divine model from outside; there has to be a vital participation, coming from the depths of the heart, in the holiness and the mercy and the love of our God. Only the Spirit by whom we live can make "ours" the same mind that was in Christ Jesus. Then the unity of forgiveness becomes possible and we find ourselves "forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave" us.
Thus the Lord's words on forgiveness, the love that loves to the end, become a living reality. The parable of the merciless servant, which crowns the Lord's teaching on ecclesial communion, ends with these words: "So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart." It is there, in fact, "in the depths of the heart," that everything is bound and loosed. It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession.
Christian prayer extends to the forgiveness of enemies, transfiguring the disciple by configuring him to his Master. Forgiveness is a high-point of Christian prayer; only hearts attuned to God's compassion can receive the gift of prayer. Forgiveness also bears witness that, in our world, love is stronger than sin. The martyrs of yesterday and today bear this witness to Jesus. Forgiveness is the fundamental condition of the reconciliation of the children of God with their Father and of men with one another.
There is no limit or measure to this essentially divine forgiveness, whether one speaks of "sins" as in Luke (11:4), or "debts" as in Matthew (6:12). We are always debtors: "Owe no one anything, except to love one another." The communion of the Holy Trinity is the source and criterion of truth in every relationship. It is lived out in prayer, above all in the Eucharist.
God does not accept the sacrifice of a sower of disunion, but commands that he depart from the altar so that he may first be reconciled with his brother. For God can be appeased only by prayers that make peace. To God, the better offering is peace, brotherly concord, and a people made one in the unity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
 “Forgive your neighbor the hurt he does you, and when you pray, your sins will be forgiven.
 “I tell you solemnly, all men’s sins will be forgiven, and all their blasphemies” There is no offense, however serious, that the Church cannot forgive. "There is no one, however wicked and guilty, who may not confidently hope for forgiveness, provided his repentance is honest. “Christ who died for all men desires that in his Church the gates of forgiveness should always be open to anyone who turns away from sin.
 “You are God’s chosen race, his saints; he loves you, and you should be clothed in sincere compassion, in kindness and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as a quarrel begins. The Lord has forgiven you; now you must do the same.”
 “And that is how my heavenly Father will deal with you unless you each forgive your brother from your heart.”
 ‘Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing’.
 ‘My Child, your sins are forgiven’. When God acquits, could anyone condemn?
a. From the above it is clear that while God, Christ, and the Church speak of ‘no limit or measure to this essentially divine forgiveness’ Jimmy Akin has titled his article “The Limits of Forgiveness”
b. …insisting on all form of forgiveness regardless of the circumstances = attitude of hyper-forgiveness. According to Jimmy Akin this is an extreme. This is reminiscent of ‘This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?’ Yet this is what is required of us even in the Old Testament.
c. Forgiveness is not equal to “letting the anger go”.
d. We are to readily forgive any offence from the heart no matter how big (we are small yet we offend an infinite God, so no comparison), no matter the hurt (none of us will ever suffer as Jesus did or even Mary who was a creature like us; both of them innocent – Mary by way of salvation), no matter the number; whether it be from a brother (offences from our loved ones hurt the most ) or from an enemy (they are unlikely to seek our forgiveness). This is the command we have been given by the Father through the Son .


Thank you for your thoughtful and complete reply.


Good luck with your talk! May God use you to touch many hearts through your ministry.

My ramblings, not sure if they’re theologically correct:
God’s the ultimate healer, the divine physician. When we go to a doctor, we don’t do ourselves good to conceal our symptoms (however embarrassing they may be). Same with Our Lord, it is for our benefit and our ultimate healing that we come to Him just as we are. From my own experiences, Satan tempts me to wait until I’m “good enough” to approach God with a problem or temptation I’m dealing with. Eventually I fall flat on my face and realize I should have flown to God from the beginning, no matter how screwed up I was. Nothing, nothing is bigger than God’s love for us and His desire to heal us, to make us whole.

A very helpful priest told me 2 years ago, when I was really struggling to forgive someone who had done a lot of damage to me and my kids, that it was acceptable to “co-exist” temporarily with this person. That I didn’t have to beat myself up for having a stony heart towards this person. It was understandable, and God could meet me where I was and work with it.
I had been very hard on myself and thinking that if I don’t perfectly forgive immediately, that I was sinning. I was able, after the priest’s advice, to work instead on approaching God and sitting at His feet, allowing Him to touch my heart over time. Then I baby-stepped forgiving this other person. “God, you know I hate this person, but I know I’m supposed to forgive. Help me.” Then “Lord, I can’t yet forgive, please come into my heart and forgive for me.” Eventually, “I will to forgive”, lastly “I forgive with my whole heart. Heal this person with your love”…and it’s not a one-time thing either, IMO. Sometimes it’s a conscious choice to make every day, every time we get hurt.


Do you know about Immaculee ?

Hers is an incredible story of forgiveness. Any of mine own pale in comparison.



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