Forgiveness: an essential for self healing

arleen bourquinSister Arleen Bourquin

At some point(s) in life, we all experience events that challenge us to forgive.  We may need to forgive ourselves, others and even God.  The event itself may seem trivial or it may have destroyed a valued relationship. The experience burns deep in our soul. 

The meaning of forgiveness is frequently misunderstood.  Most of us have been told at one time or another to “forgive and forget.”  This phrase has done considerable damage as we try to practice forgiveness because the event is a part of our life experience and is difficult perhaps impossible to forget.

I prefer to look at forgiveness as a process of integration.  After a period of resistance to forgive, that lasts varying periods of time depending on the depth of the “hurt,” forgiveness begins with the willingness to forgive.   Forgiving is an opening of the heart.  Let me share a few examples.

I had a very giving and loving grandmother.  Other relatives began to accuse me verbally of being spoiled. That was very hurtful and I felt responsible for my grandmother’s behavior towards me.  Even in adulthood, I carried this burden until one day I looked back and gave myself permission to be a child in those days, a child that was not responsible for the behavior of the adults in my life.

There was once a person in my life that hurt me so deeply that I avoided her.  If she entered a room, I went out.  In many ways, I gave her power in my life.  After many years of resentment, our paths began to connect in various ways and we needed each other.  I began to find support in her phone calls and she in mine.  We never said “I’m sorry,” but our actions spoke of forgiveness and acceptance.

Now for God!!!  Yes, I had to forgive God. One day as I was speaking with my spiritual director through tears, he repeatedly told me that God loved me.  I didn’t believe it and asked, “If God loved me so much, why didn’t God place me in a different family?”  Suddenly, I stopped crying, looked at my director and said, “Then I wouldn’t be me, would I?”  In that moment I realized that God was with me, guiding my path through ups and downs, happiness and sadness, seeing that I would develop the skills to become a wounded healer.

As you can see, I have not forgotten the events that challenged me to forgive.  What I have done is to integrate these experiences into talents that give me a different understanding of myself, others and God. God has been active in my life.  Once God even asked me to give up the "junk" I carried. In doing so the sting that those events had in my life disappeared even though I still remember the events themselves.  Forgive and integrate.

Sister Arleen Bourquin, sfp


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