I AM not so fond of writing reflections for Lent. There is this interior prompting, however, to say something about it. Perhaps it is because much has been said about power, politics, and destruction the past days that we need to also turn to another topic: forgiveness.
In a world that is wounded and scarred, forgiving is not an easy thing to do. It involves trust, at least immediately, of two persons: oneself and the other. Thus and firstly, forgiveness is possible for someone who trusts himself. Secondly, forgiveness is possible for someone who trusts the other. This is always easier said than done. But though it is difficult a thing to do, one cannot but, at some point, do it nonetheless.
Sometimes we do not acknowledge that between the righteous judge and the sinner it is the former who has difficulty moving on. In some instances, the sinner can move easily. This happens when in all humility he embraces the truth and moves forward. There is wisdom and truth in the saying that “the truth will set us free.”
Those who give judgments are usually the ones who carry the heavier baggage. This is most evident even in the smallest details we see in our day-to-day transactions: silence, distance, and apathy. This is true most especially if at the onset of the quarrel there never was goodwill. The unwillingness to forgive is most of the time coated with technical terms. The unforgiving party would hide in the pretension of factual objectivity. But facts alone do not make life. If life is merely the collection of facts then it is nothing but a skeleton that reveals the logical structure of a dead thing and nothing more.
There is a difference between being just and being unforgiving. Justice is the pursuit of what is due. What is due however can only be found in truth. Without truth there is no justice. Truth however is not the end in itself. It is made more manifest and alive in the relationships we enter. Truth, after all, leads us to trust and trust is essentially the quality of all relationships.
Precisely why, not all attempts to use the law can be called an act of justice.
Some legal processes and invocations of technicalities are not truthful. There are so many examples surrounding us – telling us that in a world drowned by pride and competition truthfulness is most of the time difficult to distinguish from pretension. Unless we free ourselves from our own pretensions and our obsessions with self-righteousness, that which we call justice is nothing but ego-tripping.
The French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre once said: “hell is other people.” One creates one’s own hell by how one looks at other people. She who cannot forgive is damned. She who insists dwelling in her self-righteousness is condemned to suffer. In a world full of imperfections, our righteousness will not redeem us. It will always make us feel cheated. It does give us superiority, i.e. being above and better than sinners. But she who does not live with sinners does not live in this world because everyone in this world is sinful. This is a world that is fallen and, always, in need of redemption.
Closed-mindedness prevents us from embracing the fact that perfection is a characteristic of the dead not the living. Precisely why living people cannot be canonized. Failing is always a read-at-hand possibility of any one who is alive. She who insists on her perfection will die a saint but sadly in solitude. The most unfortunate thing would be to become a saint revered by no one. This is the life of she whose notion of self-perfection thrives on the judgments against the imperfection of others.
Sinners and imperfect people are those who realize that in their weakness and despite it – they are called to live a life of solidarity. In their imperfections they tasted unfair treatments in and of life. But it is the experiences of injustices that gave them the sweetest taste of genuine humanization. It makes them more compassionate, understanding and loving.
In the end, it is the sinner who is most capable of forgiving. To him goes the promise: “you will be with me in paradise...”