Posted by: rosa alba | June 6, 2009

Love thine enemy seventy times seven.

“fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me”: one of the reasons we stumble in forgiving is pride. And an a misinterpretation of our own importance.  And yet, forgiveness is not so much about the person we are forgiving as about ourselves. It might be seemingly of Eastern Philosophies and religions to assert this, but to forgive freely is about loosing oneself from the bindings of this world, bit by bit, dying to self as it were, as Jesus  died on the Cross, asking for forgiveness for his torturers.

Saint Ignatius’ prayer talks of “to give and not to count the labour and as for no reward”” which is not just loving one’s neighbour but forgiving, out of hand.  They key of course is love – to love God with all one has, and to love one’s neighbour as oneself.   God the Father loves with no expectation of return, gives with no obligation to repay (we have Free Will).  As Father Keith pointed out today, it is a pivotal three way relationship: and in examining this further – until we understand and feel God’s immense and infinite love for us, given without counting the cost (blood, broken bones, suffocation), we miss a component part; once we begin to understand that love, and love ourselves, we want to pay back that love in loving our neighbours. If we think the relationship is merely God and us, we are indeed missing the point…we need neighbour.

Love your neighbour.. as yourself.  To love oneself,  one must forgive, both oneself, also others, and do so with compassion. In loving self, there is an understanding of keeping oneself safe and out of harm’s way.    This may mean that forgiveness does not include reconciliation in a real and tangible sense.

Our neighbour is of course, not so much the cheery, ever-helpful “auntie” next door who is there to help before you even ask – everyone finds it easy to love her – our neighbour is the person who pursues you savagely without apparent cause.    And it is the letting go of hurt and desire for a purposeless revenge that is the mark of forgiveness.  In forgiving one’s neignbhour – in full knowledge of what they have done and what they might very well do again, one lets go any impact their future acts might have on us emotionally, and wishes them well – or prays for their healing and happiness, for their peace and path back to God.  The cheek is turned 490 times – not to a slap (if it can be avoided, and in some cases forgiveness may mean that the person is no longer in one’s life) but to wish or pray for their happiness as we wish or pray for our own. We put ourselves our of reach of their hurt, in part by perhaps expecting nothing in return.

Pride and a misplaced sense of our role in this stands in the way.  Justice and judgement is not ours to meet out for the most part, outwith the judicial processes of the land, and to wish for (or seek)  revenge damages – not our neighbour or not soley our neighbour but ourself.  Dis-integrates the bonds of forgiving love God the Father wants to wrap us  in, not as servants or slaves (as today’s readings specified on the Feast of the Holy Trinitiy) but as Sons.

The Serentiy prayer speaks of, serenity and courage:

Lord grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

but driven by wisdom.  It is not something that sits easy with our modern humanity to accept that which we cannot change- another hubris that holds us – we want dominion  beit over nature, bus timetables or the acts of our neighbours.  We believe ourselves all powerful. And yet, what we can change is ourself, or our sense of self and how we see the world. We cannot chose or change how someone will act, but the guinea stamp may be how we react to that ourselves, and the gradual understanding of different reactions render us more or less discontent.

A wise friend of mine recounted to me the words of a priest, that in the case of those who have hurt us, we should pray, pray, pray for blessings on them.  There may be in  this an element of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, inasmuch as the establishing of a (new) habit after six weeks of continuous behaviour (also a signiicant time watershed in the process of grief).  In praying so, it is oneself that changes.. not so much death of Self but the reintegration of, would psychoanalysts say Ego? in the embracing arms of God.



  1. “This may mean that forgiveness does not include reconciliation in a real and tangible sense.”

    This is the tricky part. One of them, anyway.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: