Thursday, June 9, 2016

Forgiveness: Is It Really Possible?

Deep down, people don't believe in forgiveness. We may talk about it, but in our hearts we don't really think it's possible.

Why is this? It's connected to the deep alienation, the terrible loneliness that we suffer from and that nevertheless we think we must foster and validate in the name of individualism.

We are under the illusion that we must radically establish--each individually and by our own power--our personal being and value. But if I see "myself" as consisting in an autonomous project of self-definition, a project that I carry out alone, I will run into my own limitations everywhere. I will always fall short. And if I am truly alone, what can I do when I fail, other than condemn myself and suffer the condemnation of others.

Thus we become desperate. We try to bend reality itself, so that we can define our failures as success, and demand that others do the same. This can only be brought about by a refusal to look at the heritage of human experience, and the dynamics of real life and its inherent direction. We end up doing violence to ourselves and others. This violence, in turn, must be justified and redefined. We try to extend our redefinition of humanity into the realms of politics, society, and culture, and even to suppress those who dissent. The truth is that we are afraid to be alone with the horror of what we have made of ourselves.

But perhaps our society may begin to notice that redefining the standards of what it means to be human, among other things, doesn't work. We still bump into our own limitations, everywhere. We who claim to be "free" are in fact a society obsessed with guilt, terrified of failure, and full of self-loathing. We flee into addictions in a desperate effort to distract ourselves. To put it simply: we are not happy.

But what if I am not "alone"?

What if the core of my person consists in "belonging-to-Another"? What if my real life is in fact a relationship with the Source of all meaning and goodness? And what if I begin to realize that my very be-ing in this moment is the result of the fact that I am being loved by the One who is Infinite Love?

If this is true, then I am "good" and my humanity is a gift. A precious gift. I am precious to Someone. And when I fail, I can seek forgiveness. I can hope that the One who is Good will make me good. This hope is written on my heart, and I do not need to suffocate it. There is forgiveness.

We do not need new definitions of humanity and new social totatitarianisms to impose them. We need the prayer for forgiveness. Each of us and all of us need the prayer and the hope for forgiveness. We need forgiveness and mercy from the infinitely merciful One who always holds our hearts with love. And we need to forgive ourselves, and (this is especially important) to forgive one another.

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