Forgiveness

The Prodigal SonWhere has my summer gone? It seems every single one flies by faster than the one before it.

I began preparing my fall semester classes the same week spring semester ended, and I’ve been focused on that planning for all of May, June, and July. Then, about ten days ago, I realized that school was again upon us, and that instead of feeling refreshed after a nice, long summer break, I felt totally burned out. I realized that if I wanted to survive until Christmas—not always and easy feat for me—I would need to at least take a few days off to recharge my “batteries” before the start of the new school year.

I had a lot of options as to how to spend my “vacation” time, because I have a to-do list that I know will still be twelve miles long by the time I die, but since I was trying to relax a bit, I wanted to do something slightly less productive. Thus, I chose to take a few days off in order to travel about the state visiting people who’ve been important parts of my life over the last few decades but who I rarely see anymore. My list was extremely long, and I could only hit a few places, but it ended up being some of the most meaningful days of my entire year.

Of course I had to see the usual suspects. First I spent some time with my parents. Later I visited my grandparents for dinner. Then I dropped in on some of my old landscaping coworkers and spent a little time catching up with them. After that I visited another coworker who retired years ago and who now lives alone. He and I drank some beer and swapped some old stories. It was all very enjoyable and refreshing.

I wished that I’d been able to see more people, but the visits that I did make were great. The most important one though stood out above the rest, not because the company was better, but because the circumstances were initially so difficult. I made the decision to visit someone who was once a very close friend, but with whom I’d had a falling out over the course of the past year or so. This sort of negative parting doesn’t happen to me very often, so the reasons for it were fairly significant.

I didn’t realize until shortly beforehand just how much bitterness toward this friend I’d been harboring in my heart. Our conversation was difficult at times, but as we chatted and shared our own perspectives on everything that had happened, my anger softened and began melting away.

Looking back on the whole affair, I am struck by the wisdom of Our Lord’s words in Matthew 5:23-24. “If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath any thing against thee; Leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother: and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift.”

I think the point Our Lord was making here is that we can’t truly love God while at the same time harboring resentment toward our neighbor.

With our fallen human nature, it’s all too easy for us to become bitter and jaded when we feel wronged or hurt, but we must not allow for that to happen. Animosity is a heavy burden to carry, and the longer we go on carrying it, the more it bends us down and deforms us.

It’s never easy to forgive—or to ask to be forgiven—but it’s far easier than the alternative.

In my personal situation, while I know that things will never be the same as they once were, there is a great sense of peace in the knowledge that I won’t spend the rest of my life holding a grudge against someone who once meant so much to me. By sitting down and discussing the matter honestly, openly, and charitably, we’ve been able to avoid a lifetime of bitterness, and for that I am truly thankful.

Good friendships are some of God’s greatest gifts to us in the valley of tears that is this present life, and we ought to always recognize them, treasure them, and protect them, and—whenever possible—preserve them.

 

Nicholas Kaminsky

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