Holy Week brings Christians and many other people of faith a time of reflection, quietness, and solitude. It brings them the opportunity to enhance their beliefs, to strengthen their familial bonds, and to calm their bodies and souls, which for most of the year have been hard at work or laboring for worthier causes. In the midst of that period of undisturbed reflection, more often than not, the lessons of the past year or even the past few months come to mind to help shape the decisions of the future.
From a personal point of view, I have learned certain important principles to help me, others, and my loved ones chart the course ahead and navigate the uncertain waters of life.
In terms of Christian, universal principles, the most impactful virtue which has stood out to me is the stoicism and strength we find in forgiveness.
Forgiveness, the personal and voluntary absolution or letting go of a mistake or flaw, comprises a central tenet of the faith.
As Christ hung on the cross on that fateful afternoon on Golgotha or Calvary, one of his final acts was to absolve and pardon a penitent thief crucified next to him, and to guarantee him entrance into His Father’s Kingdom. The thief was not asked where he went to church, for certainly he would have struggled to answer such a profound, but apparently simple query.
My personal experiences have shown me that we only understand forgiveness when we exercise it in favor of those who, unlike the penitent thief, have shown not even the slightest amount of regret or make no apology for their actions or to those whom we think do not deserve it. I recall in particular two certain people who have spoken ill of me behind my back.
These individuals were people I least expected to speak ill of anyone else, much less my own person. Upon learning of their respective transgressions, anger, fury, and the cold hard force of wrath overcame my own being and nearly clouded my judgment.
The questions of “What on Earth is wrong with them? What did I do wrong?” did not stop ringing through my mind. However, through some mysterious and complicated factors, those who spoke ill of me found out that I knew of their actions and almost immediately, reached out to make amends. True to my uncomplicated beliefs, I accepted their apologies and forgave them.
The decision to forgive, to exercise personal absolution over undeserved wrongs, cannot be exercised with ease in normal circumstances. It is innate in human nature to respond, to fight back, and to seek redress for grievances committed.
That longing for the offending party to receive their “just deserts” or karma lingers in a person’s head, heart, and soul, until it consumes the person completely with that lust for getting back. It is but a logical and needful response to being unjustifiably wrong. But dwelling on acting on those human passions, however satisfying, may very likely lead a person down the path of self-destruction and deep, lasting dissatisfaction on not attaining proper closure. Some may even run into the legal consequences of their actions.
To be sure, no person would find it easy or necessary to forgive those who spoke ill about them without a legitimate cause. On the other hand, serving as a means of reducing my own, sinful nature, was the compelling necessity to help others see Christ and His teachings through my own actions, words, and thoughts.
Clearly, nobody can stake a clear claim to perfection, except the Invisible and Divine, for I, too, have my own flaws and faults.
But neither should we subscribe to the permanence of this mortal, earthly experience; for we humans are spiritual beings having a temporary, earthly experience.
We live not for ourselves, but for others, too. So as mirror images of that great Invisible and Divine Being, we can choose conscientiously to forgive like He did and will always do as a great exercise of humility and growth.
In embracing forgiveness, even beyond what we think is humanly capable, we find renewal and refreshment for our souls. That is what we can all pray for and reflect on this week and beyond.