Quellette: Christian Forgiveness is Both Necessary and Complicated

Newman House Catholic Campus Ministry offers community for Catholic Profs. Christa Ouellette, who is involved with the Catholic Campus Ministry, describes how forgiveness is a complicated but also important Christian topic. - Managing Editor / Tara Lonsdorf

One moral that unites all Christians is that of forgiveness. According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, to forgive means “to cease to feel resentment against an offender.” Letting go of resentment and anger can create space to heal.

However, many confuse forgiveness with forgetting. If we simply forgot about a situation, action, or person that harmed us, we would make the same mistakes all over again. 

Something that many Americans and historians say is “never forget.” In regards to terrorist attacks, wars, the Holocaust, and other terrible things that have happened, we should not forget so that we do not repeat the same awful history.

Does this mean we should continue to hold grudges and hate in our hearts? No. Christians are called to forgive. Does this mean we should let all offenses go and let people continue to cause harm? No. 

As Rowan University’s Catholic Campus Minister Rebekah Hardy once said to me, “Justice is a part of forgiveness.” Just because someone has caused harm does not excuse them from being brought to justice. Forgiveness does not erase or minimize the harm someone has done. 

Christians believe that we should forgive others. Holding onto anger and hatred sometimes can hurt more than letting go does. There are times when we have been hurt so much by someone that it can be difficult to forgive. We may feel like the only thing we can do is ignore it, but the fact is that those feelings of hate come back to bite us. Bottling it up will just make it overflow into other parts of our lives. This can create more harm. If someone wronged me and I don’t forgive them, that anger I feel can show up in conversations with my coworkers or how I handle getting a bad grade. 

As Christians, we believe that God so loved the world that he gave his only son, Jesus Christ. Christ died on the cross so that our sins would be forgiven all sins. From the first people to walk the earth to you and me today. Because of the love and forgiveness given to us, we are called to love and forgive others. 

In these times fueled by envy, anger, and greed, forgiveness is necessary. Forgiveness creates a path for love and peace. Does this mean that forgiving your roommate for forgetting to clean will stop wars and save lives? Probably not. 

But it can be a good start. 

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