Why is it that forgiveness seems the hardest thing for us to accomplish? I feel like it is so easy to get angry at someone, but it becomes a much harder process to forgive someone, especially when a wrong has been committed against you. This weekend, I attended a wonderful retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and I had a lot of time to reflect on this topic. The theme of the weekend was “Who do you say that I am?” which focuses on the question Jesus asked of his followers. While reflecting on that idea, I had a lot of opportunity to think about what Jesus says about forgiveness and why it is so hard for me to forgive certain wrongs.
When I went through the RCIA process last spring, my group never went through an official reconciliation. The priest who led it needed surgery, and while we talked about it in class, we never physically went through the process. This weekend, I went to my first confession, which has me talking about the topic of forgiveness. I was really nervous about going to confession, and my friend Danielle ended up sitting with me for over an hour while I waited for my turn to meet with the priest. She and my other friend, Sara, helped explain how the process went and what kind of things to talk about. I knew instantly what I needed to talk about, and that perhaps made me even more nervous.
My biggest struggle is forgiveness. I find it hard to forgive people who have hurt me or the people that I love. I have carried resentment for people, and I knew for someone in particular, I have been harboring a lot of resentment. I had a very difficult relationship with a former roommate. She and I didn’t see eye to eye on practically anything, and it caused a lot of friction and hurt feelings for a lot of people. She said things to me that were designed to be hurtful. She said things that were untrue and her actions did not always live up to the words that she spoke. We argued a lot, and fought like children over stupid things. I think it is important to note that I was not the perfect roommate either, but she left me feeling incredibly bitter against ever living with people again. I carried these feelings into my new community, where I was once again a roommate living with virtual strangers. It was hard for me to move on from what had happened in the past year. It was hard for me to learn to trust my new roommates because I was afraid of a repeat of events.
I struggled with forgiveness because I struggled with trust. I was angry at my old roommate because I felt like she was the reason I couldn't move on. I thought she was the reason I had to lock my door when I left, or when I was hesitant to watch television with my new community. The anger turned into resentment, which made it even harder to forgive past actions.
So on Saturday night, shivering together on a porch, I talked to Fr. Peter about these feelings. I told him how anger and resentment made it hard to forgive my former roommate. I told him I felt that not being able to forgive past wrongs made me feel like I couldn't move forward in my new community, which in turn made me even more against forgiveness.
Having that discussion was one of the best things that could have happened to my weekend. Fr. Peter and I talked about the concept of forgiveness, and that sometimes it takes time. He told me maybe the reason I cannot yet forgive her is because it is not time yet, and that it is okay. He told me to pray for her, and to pray for myself. Anger is a normal human emotion that we all feel at some point. Eventually, I will forgive her, and I will know when the time is right. Already, it has begun to work. I pray for her every night, and I pray for myself. I pray that she is doing well with what she is doing with her life now, and I pray for myself to find peace in my heart. I pray for my own vocation and my students and my new community. I pray that I will eventually be able to completely forgive what has hardened my heart and that I can fully open up with my new roommates.
Fr. Peter told me to pray and reflect on the “Our Father”. He told me that Jesus was a teacher, and this is what he taught his disciples. It put me in a better place as a teacher and as a member of a religious community. I am still learning to let God and others forgive my trespasses as I learn to forgive those who have trespassed against me.
It’s a journey, but what is important to remember is that I am not in this journey alone. I have to trust in God’s timing, not my own. So who is Jesus to me? What would I say if he asked me “Who do you say that I am?”
Jesus is my teacher. He is my community member and my friend. He is my confidant. He is the one patiently standing on the stoop when I shut the door on Him. He is beauty and forgiveness and time.