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Across the Pastor’s Desk: Forgiveness brings peace to life

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Henry Doyle

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” — Ephesians 4:32

Henry Doyle

I have spoken words I ought not to have said to another person. I have done things I ought not to have done to another person. After I have said the hurtful words and done the hurtful things, I have felt badly, ashamed, remorseful. Eagerly, I try to make things better. I call out to God, admit my wrong and ask forgiveness. Also, I take another step. I communicate with the one I have hurt. I take responsibility and ask for forgiveness.

Once, I argued with a fellow passenger over the use of the compartment above the seats on the plane. He was touching my stuff, moving things around. I had overreacted. I felt awful. After the plane was in the air, I called for the flight attendant and asked her for a piece of paper and a pen. She kindly granted my request. To the man, I wrote an apology and asked for forgiveness; I handed the paper to the man seated across the aisle from me. The man read my words. He did not say anything, but through his non-verbal expression, he knew I had meant what I had written.

In another instance, I had once angered a good friend to the extent, he told me to kiss one of his body parts. His words shocked me and hurt, but I said nothing in return. I stewed about what had happened. I forgave him, even though he never asked for forgiveness. I have not forgotten the incident, but I have not held it against him. I learned not to push his button again. We have remained very close friends.

It is essential for me to forgive others and to ask God and the people of God — family, friends, strangers, et al — for forgiveness. For me, forgiveness has led to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion. Forgiveness has not meant I have forgotten or excused the harm done. It also has not always meant I have made up with the person I have hurt or who has hurt me. When I forgiven someone or when someone has forgiven me, I have felt released from any anger, hurt and desire for vengeance. Forgiveness has given me peace, which has helped me go forward with life.

“Peter came and said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but I tell you seventy-seven times.’” — Matthew 18:21-22

The point Jesus makes is that we do not count the number of times we forgive someone. As the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Forgiveness is not an occasional act; it is a permanent attitude.”

The Rev. Henry L. Doyle is the priest-in-charge at Christ Episcopal Church in Albert Lea.