There are many things people do which hurt us and there are things we do which wound other people. Some are perhaps more obvious than others, some are clearly worse than others. There are two things that I think it is important to remember:

1. There are no good sins.

2. Whatever wrong we do, even if it hurts no-one else, even if it doesn’t seem to hurt us, we always hurt God. And, if we have been hurt, so has God.

But we also have to remember that sin, hate and hurt do not have the last word. There is a bigger word, which comes from love, and that is forgiveness.

Forgiveness can take a long time but the first step is a choice. It is a choice to forgive. That doesn’t mean it will automatically happen, it can take a long time, and we may think we have forgiven someone or something and then we discover another layer of hurt, more consequences and the only way to keep going is to keep forgiving.

Forgiveness enables us to move on. It makes us free. Firstly, because it frees us from our own anger and hate. It gets us past hurt and self-pity. And secondly because in freely choosing to forgive, we make good use of our freedom. In this way we practice or exercise our freedom and just like anything else, when we practice we get better at it. We become more free.

Finally, if (and when) we find it hard to forgive it is important to remember that God constantly forgives us and chooses to do so even though he knows that he will have to keep doing it over and over again. This is especially important when we are struggling to forgive ourselves.

A beautiful personal testimony on forgiveness from Margaret Mizen, whose 16-year-old son was murdered in 2008, will perhaps convince you more of the truth of this then anything I can say:

 Questions for discussion

– If I wait until someone apologizes before I forgive them, what will this mean for me? For them? For my relationships with others?

– Jesus told us to forgive not just seven times but seventy x seven times (Mt 18:21-22): are you keeping count?

– Is it harder to forgive ourselves or other people?

– Does forgiving just mean forgetting?