Forgiveness involves letting go of the need to change the past.


Our Question of the Week:

I am a contractor who did some work for some cousins. They cheated me out of a significant amount of money. Strangely, I still get invited to family functions by them as if nothing ever happened. But I don’t want to have anything to do with them. Does forgiveness require me to accept invitations and be friendly?

Answer: Forgiveness involves letting go of the need to change the past. Through forgiveness, we are able to let go of our resentments, our desire for revenge, and wrathful anger that often accompanies hurts or injustices we experience. In most cases forgiveness does permit us to resume or stay in relationships with people.

In many situations, the hurts are slight and the issues are more of the moment rather than involving ongoing and very unhealthy aspects of our relationships with others. But there are times when it is simply not wise to continue in relationships where there is ongoing sin, injustice or harm. A woman may forgive her husband for repeated physical abuse he has inflicted on her in the past. She may understand that his anger comes from the fact that he himself was abused as a child. She may, by the grace of forgiveness, harbor no anger or resentment. But it does not follow forgiveness means she should resume a common household with him. This might further endanger her and her children. It might also deepen the husband’s pathology and delay him getting the help he needs.

In your case, there may be reasons for you to stay clear of the family members who cheated you. You would not be rude or wrathful to them, but it does mean that you are required to be jovial and pretend that nothing happened. On the other hand, what is to prevent a forthright conversation between you all about what happened? Too often, enough effort is not made to find greater understanding.

I cannot say what is best for you. I can only communicate the principles that forgiveness does often mean that the parties involved share this gift in order to further deepen the relationship. But as stated, there are exceptions to this and forgiveness does not always require resuming unhealthy situations that really benefit neither party.

Pastoral Answers: Monsignor Charles Pope  (Our Sunday Visitor)

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