Nouwen: Healing our hearts Through Forgiveness
“How can we forgive those who do not want to be forgiven? But if our condition for giving forgiveness is that it will be received, we seldom will forgive! Forgiving the other is an act that removes anger, bitterness, and the desire for revenge from our hearts and helps us to reclaim our human dignity. We cannot force those we want to forgive into accepting our forgiveness. Forgiving others is first and foremost healing our own hearts.” Henri Nouwen, Henri Nouwen Society, Daily Meditation, from Bread for the Journey, January 27, HarperSanfrancisco, 1997.
This past weekend I was with an amazing group of women in Searcy, Arkansas, as we talked about forgiveness. One of the first questions from two of the women was, “How can I forgive someone who has harmed me or someone I love when they do not see that they have done any wrong?”
These are the hardest situations for me to forgive as well. I think I am doing well, but then I hear how the people involved see no wrong doing on their part, and an angry dragon puts his head up again. The anger is nothing like the initial event, but it still endangers my body and my mind and my soul. I am allowing the people and the situation to continue to harm me unless I can transform that energy into something useful for my body and the world.
I think of a a small church related school that I and many others were involved with several years ago that was closed overnight. Most of us have worked through the abrupt closing and have moved on. We will all carry a scar, but for the most part the wound is healing.
Most of us decided that if we cannot forgive those involved in the closing, or those who did nothing to prevent it, they are still hurting us. They take up space in our minds, our life, our bodies, and our relationship with others. We all have prayed to transform the huge amount of energy generated by this hurt into something positive. We all are now seeing gold deep down in this pain.
I often go to a place where I remember the children and teachers and school board singing as they walk out in pairs at the conclusion of the school’s closing graduation as each carries a small lighted candle out into the world. What I do see every day is the light each of those involved at this school now bring to so many other schools, homes, churches, and places of work. We have been sent out to share what we learned from that experience, the relationships, the love, the kindness to others, the acceptance of others, the belief in a very loving God. There was so much light at that school. That is why it was so hard to leave, but we have now been commissioned to carry out the light we received there into the larger world. We can make a difference in so many other lives, and so many have been doing just that.