A Reflection on Forgiveness

A Reflection on Forgiveness

Emmanuel Nuh Mbeh mhm


Gush, you can’t turn away or block your ears from hearing it! Talk of shocks or a shocker! Saint John Paul II in On the Threshold of Hope and Benedict XVI in Light of the World held that the shocker for many in every annual retreat (probably up to the time I was ten), so unavoidable and unwavering, were discourses and reflections on death, personal judgement, eschatology – last things. Now it doesn’t shock anyone anymore either because not much of death and judgement is heard, given or stressed in annual retreats and monthly recollections wherever and whenever, or we have simply grown used to it as we do to clichés. More shocking and punching yet are topics and talks in daily prayers, meditation and retreats from sexuality to ecology, vital and quintessential as these are and more.

But man/woman cannot live long without shocking another or being shocked. Humanity, every now and again needs the light, medium or heavy weight electric shock-like wake-up call out of any slumber, complacency or mediocrity, for as Scott Hann asserts, the world is not a playground but a battlefield. The daily news on politics, faith and economics is full of shocks.

A daily shocker (at least for me and perhaps many from the South) is the F-word in the West and spreading like wild fire.

But, meet two great yet humble and gracious psycho-spiritual giants whom I have met, Frs Jim and Len who insist unequivocally, representing psychology and spirituality at their best, that from the U.S. to the U.K., from North to South, from East to West, and from one tribe, culture and religion to another, the “F” word is nothing but paradigmatic. We all know people who cannot use the “F” word for better or for worse. We all struggle to use it, abuse it or misuse it.

Indeed their, my and your “F” word is not the swear word, the curse word, the rage word, that cheap one, that immoral, casual and cathartic one; no, it’s the indispensable irresistible F word of FORGIVENESS. To be able to say I.F.U. – I FORGIVE YOU (every time, every day, seven times, seventy seven times, seventy times seven times) is a sign of good health, healthy spirituality, good mental health and a socially balanced personality.

It is the fundamental doze and the ultimate test of/in every human discipline whether intellectual, cultural, psychological, religious, spiritual, moral or political. But forgiveness, stressed Fr Jim, is not the same as condoning injustice. Forgiveness frees me from a load I tend to carry for days, weeks, years, sometimes unto death and makes me resemble Christ on Calvary and in the Lord’s prayer; refusal to forgive causes a lot of stress.

I know (or rather I knew) someone/people I could not forgive for years. You know, we know people we cannot or won’t stand or forgive, and justifiably so. Psychology and spirituality are now coming in and shocking you and me that, not to forgive anyone and everyone is to be sick, to be self poisoning, to hold on to a hot iron jealously, to be a pretentious follower of Christ especially when praying the Lord’s prayer and watching him forgive his own enemies.

Needless to say that to use the F word is not easy; it is easier said than done. Just thinking of someone malicious, criminal, sabotaging, vindictive, sadistic, diabolical, whom mob justice often nicknames vampire or snake, traitor or simply irritating, annoying and hard to get live with and the famous gossip terrorist. The same psychologists and spiritual gurus break it down for us to make it easier.

One possible use of the F word is intentional forgiveness always immediate, conscious and repetitive like the pain killer paracetamols, and the second is emotional forgiveness which comes slowly with time and by God’s grace. We need the grace of God, especially when the hurt is seemingly beyond repair and the thought or sight of the perpetrator keeps us awake at night or makes us wish they were dead.

The indispensable, irresistible F word is the dose and the test. Indeed the ultimate test of maturity is the ability to take responsibility for one’s feelings, not just actions; and even more so, to move from blaming to healing; to embark on the F word of forgiveness from conception – of parents, ancestors, siblings, relatives, neighbours, school mates, teachers, colleagues, superiors, friends, co-workers, past and present. St Faustina in her conversions with the Lord Jesus in the 1930s on Divine Mercy highlights the same – I am giving you three ways of exercising mercy toward your neighbour: the first by deed, the second by word and the third by prayer… (we have focused on the middle one: by word. The others, prayer and deed intensify and complete this process of forgiveness/mercy) By this means a soul glorifies and pays reverence to My mercy. (Diary 742)….my daughter, do whatever is in your power to spread devotion to my Mercy. I will make up for what is lacking. Tell aching mankind to snuggle close to my merciful heart and I will fill it with peace (Diary 1074).

Emmanuel Mbeh mhm

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