FORGIVENESS—By Elizabeth C. T. Miller
Out of the depths have I cried unto Thee, O Lord. Lord, hear my voice; let Thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If Thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in His word do I hope.
My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say more than they that watch for the morning.
Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is plenteous redemption. And He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
—Psalm 130, 1-8.
Then came Peter to Him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, until seven times: but, until seventy seven times.
—Matthew 18, 21-35.
A deaf mute was asked his interpretation of forgiveness; he wrote on a pad, "The perfume a flower yields when trampled on." There is something sublime in this answer. Think on it! "The perfume a flower yields when tramped on"—and a deaf mute made this answer. In a person, it is the love he still gives out in spite of injury, injustice or hurt. Even an effort to do this is an approach to the heights of the Soul’s attainment. To be able, no matter what has happened, to continue in loving regard of our fellow men is only just short of being Divine.
When we forgive a person, we place him back in the same regard that we formerly held him. To forgive is to give back; to place back in the same relation as before. Surely, when each of us has so much for which to be forgiven, we can seek to render forgiveness, else how can we expect to partake thereof? "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." We must forgive those who have debts against us, if we expect to be forgiven. Of course, this applies to moral debts. In no way could it be interpreted as meaning material debts; we are certainly expected to take care of our material debts and no one could ever absolve us from them.
In forgiveness, there is a largeness of heart, a breadth of mind, a depth of understanding, a nobility of tolerance, and a generosity of soul; only a kindly spirit can truly forgive—and we benefit ourselves when we do this, for there can be no one of these above attributes exercised without its being increased.
Jesus said to his disciples: "Whosoever sins ye remit, they shall be remitted unto them, but whosoever sins ye retain, they shall be retained." In the old usage of this word "remit" meant pardon. What weight these words have in them! If we forgive, the person is released from this act, but if we hold this thing against him it remains. What availeth vindictiveness? Nothing. We injure ourselves far more by such an attitude. If we have been wronged, injustice done us, injury done, the natural laws will take care of all of these. We are not here to condemn, but to work toward the light and help others so to do. "To be workers together with God, not judges." How many times we speak or act hastily, hurriedly, without deep thought, and many times we wound another’s feelings, and we seek forgiveness. Ought we not by the same token to render forgiveness? Until we give full pardon, we cannot expect to receive it, "for the measure ye mete shall be measured unto you again."
To be unforgiving is selfish, egotistical and blind. We hug our hurt feelings and are sorry for ourselves—this is sorrow’s crown of sorrows; this being sorry for ourselves—it is ingrowing, and the more we dwell on this injury the larger it becomes, and more difficult becomes the step of forgiveness. We put ourselves so far above the other person in importance—we think of what has been done to us, and magnify the hurt. We dwarf our vision and see not how the other person has hurt himself, and that by generosity we can help both with forgiveness.
How much closer are human hearts knitted together by forgiveness, how friendship takes on a new and larger meaning. How much deeper the understanding and how much more we feel at one with one another. Forgiveness is the healing balm of friendship—for human as we are, there are times when misunderstandings arise, but do we not each owe it to ourselves in largeness of heart and kindliness of spirit to forgive even as we would be forgiven?
Forgiveness is the approach to the throne and angels dwell close to the heart and mind that can forgive. Love is not love that hath not forgiveness in it. If we would travel the Master’s path truly, forgiveness must accompany, for we, too, are frail and must needs call for this benign grace from the Father, and as we receive it, may we also give of it, for every one that asketh shall receive it. As we expect to receive and ask for forgiveness time and again so are we to give forgiveness time and time again.
Mercy is not mercy that hath not forgiveness in it. If we wish our errors turned according to our efforts and our intent to be the measure of them, so let us have mercy that hath forgiveness in it, as we expect mercy.
Humility is the twin sister of forgiveness, for if we do but realize our many shortcomings, our own weak efforts, our many failings, we shall have the grace to be forgiving when we need so much ourselves, and in all humbleness seek to be replaced in Divine Regard. What a comfort it is to know that we can be so replaced! There is always the answer to the sincere desire for forgiveness. Ever ready is the Father to replace His children. So no matter how we fall away from the Path, or no matter where we turn from it, through the ever present grace of God’s mercy, can we obtain forgiveness, and be once more at-one with Him and with our fellow men.
Forgiveness is the healing balm of humanity. With no thought of Himself and in spite of curses, in spite of the hatred about Him, in spite of His enemies and betrayers, Jesus on the Cross breathed the most sublime petition in all history:
"Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
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