Mary Dwyer: Forgiveness
“Forgiveness is not forgetting, not condoning not a form of absolution, not a pretense, not a once and for all decision, and not a sign of weakness but of strength.” Mary Dwyer, One Day Retreat of Contemplative Outreach, Learning to Forgive, February 10, 2018, St. Mark’s.
Last weekend at a Forgiveness Workshop with Mary Dwyer from Contemplative Outreach, Ltd., at St. Mark’s we learn some basics to start the journey of forgiveness. She reminds us that forgiveness is the only conditional part of the Lord’s Prayer, “ forgive our sins, as we forgive others.”
Reconciliation involves both parties. Forgiveness involves only one party.
Mary cautioned us about forgiving too soon.
She used the process from Fr. William A. Meninger’s book, The Process of Forgiveness. The first stage of beginning to forgive involves claiming the hurt, often by writing about it. Telling our story also is a big part in Bishop Tutu’s book, The Book of Forgiving. In the second stage toward healing we feel guilt that maybe we did something wrong for this to happen. Here we are healed by comforting our inner child. In the third stage we see ourselves as the victim. Mary gave examples of how so many people get stuck in this stage. Their whole life is centered around some hurt many years ago. Support groups help in this stage as we see we are not the only ones who have been harmed. In the fourth stage we become very anger about the hurt. Anger brings with it a huge amount of energy and clarity. If we can transform that energy, we can then start healing as we release this energy and become whole again. What helps me the most is the knowledge that the person who has harmed me is still hurting me as long I cannot forgive them.
Mary then described a process of active imagination with God and the person who has harmed us called the Forgiveness Prayer. After a period of Centering Prayer, we imagine our own sacred space with God very close to us. She imagines she is sitting in God’s lap. My sacred space would be sitting on the white sandy beach by the ocean watching the waves come gently in as the sea gulls fly in and out at the water’s edge. We then invite someone who has harmed us to come into our space. We tell them all that they have done to harm us. Then we ask them if we have harmed them and then ask them for forgiveness. Sometimes having a picture of the person may be helpful as we speak to him or her. This is not a one time event but may require many encounters. For me, the Forgiveness Prayer is so helpful when the person who harmed me refuses to talk about it. The Prayer allows us to talk to that person in a safe place where we cannot be harmed again, but also to acknowledge mistakes we made as well.
Mary also recommends praying daily for the person who has harmed us until we are ready to forgive.