I’ve been reading a lot of Imaculeé Ilibagiza (forgive me if I butcher that spelling) lately. One of her biggest things she harps on is forgiveness, and she says it in a very Catholic manner when she says that all must forgive, but justice still has to be done.(And no, she’s not at all a fan of vigilantes or revenge.)
This is very different from the Protestant influenced background in which I’ve grown up in. I live in a very Protestant (and often evangelical) area- Christian Reformed, Calvinists, Baptists, and Methodists are the most common groups around here, and as such I have a bit of their culture ingrained into me. I’m working hard to get most of it out of my system, since a lot of it is mistaken.
Please note, I realize that not all Protestants believe the same things. I get that, but this has been my experience of Protestantism.
I will always remember the cliché “forgive and forget” but I have also always struggled with it. People do some incredibly nasty things. If you read Left to Tell, by Imaculeé Ilibagiza, you learn about the horrible things that were done during the Rwandan genocide.
How can anyone forget that, especially if it was done to you?
Thank God that I have not lived through anything as horrible as a genocide, but there have been parts of my life that carry a lot of anger and hurt.
And I always thought: How can I forgive when it means pretending nothing happened? Why does forgiving mean forgetting?
Those thoughts always ran counter to what I thought I had learned from Catholicism about purgatory- it was a punishing place before someone might go to heaven.
For the record (and dear lord look it up in the Catechism) purgatory is a bit more complicated than that. Purgatory is a place of purification where those with their sins already forgiven are freed from the effects of their sin. In other words, that urge to lie is going to get purged from you, because you can’t enter Heaven if you’ve still got some sin clinging to you.
(if you do manage it, I’m sure Saint Michael will show you to the door…)
Even with my limited view of Purgatory, I knew something wasn’t right with the idea that forgiveness equals forgetfulness.
Where the heck was the justice in that? I know that I can’t forget some of the things done to me by others because it has helped shaped my personality.
But, the Bible is crystal clear on forgiveness.
After reading Imaculeé’s books, I can kind of see it right now. Forgiveness just means forgiving. I am not obligated to forget- I can learn something from those bad experiences. Nor am I obligated to act as if the other person has done nothing wrong- that is dishonest and unfair to both of us.
Forgiveness acknowledges what happened, frees the people involved, and allows someone to move on. But it doesn’t have to happen at the cost of my personality or my memories.
And yes, justice of some sort will be done, but that is God’s job (or in the case of something criminal, Law Enforcement’s) and not mine.
This kind of forgiveness is very hard to do. Its a very Catholic sort of forgiveness, where things are looked at with both eyes open, and all the pain out there for anyone to see. Its very honest, very healthy, and a huge pain in the ass.
When it gets too hard though, I just wonder how God forgives me, or the people who did horrendous things to Him through torture and dying on a cross to being stabbed even after death. Puts my struggles into some perspective there.