Practicing Forgiveness

To forgive the incessant provocations of daily life – to keep on forgiving the bossy mother-in-law, the bullying husband, the nagging wife, the selfish daughter, the deceitful son – how can we do it? Only, I think, by remembering where we stand, by meaning our words when we say in our prayers each night, “Forgive our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

C.S. Lewis reminds us of a fundamental spiritual formation practice. The practice of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is core to most, if not all, of the religions I have studied. Yet, practitioners often manage to subvert the practice. They draw circles around favored types of people and deny forgiveness to those outside their circle of favorites.

Maybe you have read about how we should practice forgiveness. But the scope of the problem looks overwhelming.

I’m looking out my front window at a Magnolia bush. Its branches send shoots of new branches seemingly at random. It needs to be pruned. There are so many, the work seems overwhelming. Then I adjust my insight and realize that focusing on just clipping one shoot at a time more quickly than I realize gets the job done.

We cannot forgive the entire world. That’s overwhelming. But we focus first on ourselves, then on our versions of “the bossy mother-in-law, bullying husband, nagging wife, selfish daughter, deceitful son…” One at a time. Who in your life needs to be your first shoot?

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