Forgiveness is one of the things that people ask for, but have a hard time giving it. Forgiveness is also easier to ask when you are younger, but harder as we grow. As an adult we learn that forgiveness is not that easily granted when we ask for it, and so, one day we stop asking for it. As an adult we also learn the bitter truth that some people ask for forgiveness just to get what they want. And the scariest moment of all is when others tell you to forgive, so that you will be forgiven, because a good Christian is supposed to do that. These people intentionally misuse Jesus’ quotes by turning them into cliché. Their intention is to make others feel guilty. I do not doubt that Jesus said that, and I do not doubt that Jesus had a very good reason, but, this expression must not be used to make others guilty.
“Forgive and you will be forgiven” can be used in many different contexts. For example “forgive those who repent and you will be forgiven too when you repent for your own mistakes” or “forgive yourself for your own mistakes and others will forgive you too.” In both cases that I just mentioned the individual has to acknowledge first that him (or her) makes mistakes too. Forgiveness is a state of being in peace with those who have done you wrong, but it is impossible to make someone be in that state, reach that level of understanding just by ordering them “forgive and you will be forgiven.” Reaching the state of forgiveness takes time; it may take many years sometimes and only through understanding more and learning more facts can free you from that anger and grudge for others. That’s how human mind works. Therefore, telling someone “forgive others for their mistakes, and you too will be forgiven for yours,” can sometimes leave room for misinterpretations.
I would like to mention here that based on several documents that are found, which seem to have been written one hundred to two hundred years after Jesus died, it is concluded that the original words of Jesus may have been, “forgive and you will be forgiven on the Day of Judgment.” The day of judgement; people had been waiting for that day for two thousand years, but hasn’t come yet. Could Jesus have been mistaken when he predicted the end of the world? If he was wrong about the end of the world and Judgment day could he also be wrong about other things he was teaching? Was Jesus an apocalyptic prophet or not? Was he talking about the final judgement or not? This will be one of the topics that I would like to explore probably on another post in the future. But for now let’s assume that Jesus’ words really meant what he said, that Jesus was talking about the Day of Judgement. In that case it seems like this statement “forgive and you will be forgiven” was going to be used as a measure of one’s fault and which will determine whether someone will be granted forgiveness or not. But does this method seem fair to you? If we accept that God, one day is going to judge his creations why would God base His judgement on whether one fellow forgives another fellow? Sometimes it is humanly impossible and very hard to forgive. For example, it is hard for a father to forgive the killer of his own son or daughter. The father must not ask for revenge because this will bring another contra-reaction, but a father that morns cannot be ask to forgive that easily, at least not right away. I am trying to come up with any reason so to forgive Michael Rafferty who sexually abused and then killed the 8 year old Tory Stafford, but I can’t. Even if I argue and accept that Michael Rafferty was mentally ill and needs treatment, I cannot forgive him for that action. I feel the pain of losing a child in such monstrous way. And I am just a bystander, I have no relation to anyone who is connected to the victim, yet I cannot accept the action because I am a mother myself and I feel the pain of Tory’s parents. In this case I would like to see, not revenge per say, but at least I want to see the killer getting cured and them become aware of his actions so he can feel responsibility for them and feel the remorse for such actions. His death will not satisfy me as a parent, but his remorse, his suffering soul that becomes aware of the horrible things he did, that will give me some peace of mind.
Cases like the one I just mentioned are even more sensitive in other parts of the world, when the whole family is exterminated in front of one of the survivors. How could this person live in peace and forgive his enemies without any closure? Psychologists and doctors would agree that these types of events would cause too much damage to a person emotionally and mentally. To forgive? Impossible! We are asking humans to act inhumanly. God created us with emotions and this is the best part of us. We enjoy loving one another, desire beauty, and we would jump into a fire to save one another, just because we are humans. We act unpredictably based on these emotions, sometimes. So God cannot punish us for something He Himself created. It’s like the owner punishes a dog for barking. It is this fear that dogs feel about strangers that make them worthy to guard our houses. We can train the dog when to bark but we cannot punish the dog for being itself. So, obviously “forgive and you will be forgiven” is not meant to be used as a measure for judging our souls. Therefore, Jesus was not talking about the Final Judgement when he said, “forgive to be forgiven.” Jesus may have been apocaliptic, as some historians concluded about him, but he did not mean that everyone must forgive one another as a way of salvation for the Final Judgement. If we accept that Jesus was all about forgiveness without even stopping and putting some thought into it, then this would go against what Jesus himself stated that, “…I have not come among you to bring peace…” Matthew 10:34-42
If we change the context of this saying a little bit and add “forgive those who repent, and you will be forgiven too when you repent,” then this could make lots of sense and it could even be used as a way to judge one’s deeds. Here is why. If someone asks for forgiveness, and we understand that this act is sincere, then if we still hold grudges and we still want revenge, our actions then will be judged. It is clear that continuing to keep hatred alive by not accepting a sincere apology will only bring more revulsion, more hurt feelings and as a result, more anger. In this case we are initiating further conflicts, which will result in more pain. On the other hand, when someone hurts us and doesn’t even ask for forgiveness one rightfully cannot forgive this person. But what can we do in order to not continue these arguments any further and to not hold grudges? What can we do when we cannot forgive? Lets’ first remember that it is quite human to feel that way, angry and unforgiving. However, the best thing to do in such cases when you feel lots of pain for your hurt or your loss is to remove ourselves from that hurtful environment. Separating yourself from people who cause you pain is the best thing to do as a first step toward healing and forgiving. The next step would be to educate yourself about others’ situations and reasons for their actions. Thirdly, the person who caused you pain must ask for your forgiveness so that you may forgive them. If there is no action on their sides to show remorse for what they did to you and honestly showing that they are trying to reach out to you by offering some sort of compensations for the pain they have cost you, which basically is more of a symbolic gesture than a real deal for real pain or loss, then there will not be any forgiveness.
In my life I have tried so many times, to forgive others before they even asked for forgiveness. That was wrong and I learned my lessons, because instead they insulted me even more. Why? Because this doesn’t work. As simply as that. Because “forgive and you will be forgiven,” is taken out of its context. If you forgive someone before they ask for forgiveness that means that they do not really understand their mistake and do not feel that they were doing anything wrong when they treated you that way. With this mentality they continue to abuse you and treat you the same way they did before, by hurting you. Like me, many people have tried to forgive others who do not deserve our forgiveness. Like me, many others got hurt more and more in return, until one day Jesus’ lessons were forgotten because by taking them out of the context these lessons had no more real values. They became some sort of saying with no real values other than bragging for knowing what he said pretending to be a good Christian.
Another case scenario as to when this saying can be used is “forgive yourself and others will forgive you too.” This might sound a bit too selfish at first but once you understand its meaning then you would agree with me that this too could be the context. As I mentioned earlier, children do not have a hard time asking for forgiveness. However,as we grow older, asking for forgiveness becomes harder because we judge ourselves first, before others judge us, thinking that we should have known better. The more we judge ourselves for our own mistakes the harder we fight to justify our errors, and the harder it becomes to ask for forgiveness or to forgive others too. Until we face and accept our own mistakes and then forgive ourselves, the battle inside us will never stop. And as we constantly learn to live with the feelings of guilt, we also start assuming that others are just as guilty as we are. Therefore, we have a hard time forgiving them, just as we have a hard time forgiving ourselves in the first place.
The solution therefore is not to escape these moments of guilt, or to bury them in our memories. Instead the only solution is to face our mistakes, to face ourselves, which is quite in contrary to the first step of actions when others abuse or hurt us. It is not easy to accept being wrong, but the more we try to run away from our mistakes the more we will feel guilty. Another benefit from learning to forgive ourselves, is that once we learn to forgive ourselves, it becomes easier to forgive others, but only if they repent first, of course. I want to remind the readers that fogginess is one of the main topics I cover in my book “Secret Beyond The Secret,” and want to mention here that excuses should not be mistaken for apology. When someone is making excuses then that person is not asking for forgiveness, instead is justifying his or her actions as acceptable. Even when you have to accept your own mistakes, any type of justification will not allow the process of forgiveness to happen. If we continue to hide the truth at any cost, just because we feel embarrassed to admit to ourselves that we did something wrong, if we have such hard time forgiving ourselves, then how can others forgive us? We need to constantly remind ourselves that all people feel guilty for some of their actions at some point, and therefore we all want to hide mistakes so others will not notice our faults. However, if we feel guilty to the point that we want to hide our mistakes at any cost then this will lead to further wrong actions in the future. So, in that context we can say forgive yourself now to be forgiven.