Parish Blog

Learning to Forgive Ourselves

I recently reconnected with someone who I have been out of touch with for many years.  He needed someone to talk to, and despite how long it had been since we last spoke, he felt confident that I would be able to talk him through some troubles he was currently facing.  He feels as if the sins of his past are the reasons why someone he loves is currently mistreating him.  But I disagree.  Oftentimes, when faced with some sort of suffering, we ask ourselves if these injustices are happening to us because of a wrong we may have committed in our past.  We hope that maybe this will justify our current struggles.  Instead of focusing on what happened in the past and whatever mistakes we may have made, we should seek forgiveness and find a way to forgive ourselves.

As it is written in Psalms 103:10: He has not dealt with us as our sins merit, nor requited us as our wrongs deserve. And God won’t.  God is love and God is always bountiful in His mercy to us. How much time do we spend beating up on ourselves after we made a mistake?  We tend to beat up on ourselves so much that there is no room for God to deal with us as our sins merit.  God forgave us, but how come we cannot forgive ourselves? 

As I reflect on learning to forgive myself, I offer some tips on how we can do this:

  •  Forgiveness means letting go of the past.  In other words, we should not allow our past to be a constant part of our identity. We are not the same as we were yesterday; yet, God’s love for us never changes.
  • God forgives your sins, but our bodies won't. As we grow in our relationship with God, and we learn from past transgressions, we work towards forgiving ourselves by releasing the emotion attached to that wrong. Forgiveness requires our whole self: mind, body, and spirit.
  • We never really forgive and forget. We may never forget our past, but our memories can be healed. This is a process that takes time. We begin by acknowledging that we have made mistakes or have experienced hurt in our past. Healing is a gift that is offered to us from God.

This Lent, instead of giving something up, we should take on the task of forgiving ourselves.  We must be willing to go so far as to forgive someone whose hurtful actions still reside somewhere in our hearts.

Jennifer C. Reid is the Pastoral Associate at St. Columbanus Church. Her Twitter handle is @Corliss615.

Celebrating Ash Wednesday

Fr. Matt O'Donnell is the Pastor of St. Columbanus Church. His Twitter handle is @FrMattODonnell

Fr. Matt O'Donnell is the Pastor of St. Columbanus Church. His Twitter handle is @FrMattODonnell

Today Christians around the world celebrate Ash Wednesday. It is a holy and sacred day that begins the season of Lent. Too often we think of Lent as a time to give things up, but this way of thinking doesn’t capture the true purpose of Lent. Lent is a time of preparation; it is a season of getting ready for the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

On this Ash Wednesday we hear the words “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Ashes are placed on our foreheads in the sign of the Cross. What we remember today is that we are created by God. It is God who formed us and fashioned us, it is God who breathed life into the first human person. It is God who breathes life into you and me. We reflect on the fact that there will come a day when our earthly bodies will return to the dust from which we were once formed. This day recalls what we hear in the first chapters of Genesis.

It might seem that all of this is just a reflection on our mortality. This talk of returning to dust might seem like a strange way to begin this season. How often do we stop to reflect on the fact that we are created? Have you taken the time to think deeply about what it means to be created in God’s own image and likeness? God is the creator of all that exists and we are so intimately connected to the created world around us. Ash Wednesday helps us focus on our origins.

So, why celebrate Lent? During these sacred days you can be reminded of God’s unconditional love! By entering completely and totally into these 40 days you can grow in your relationship with God. These days afford you an opportunity to reflect more deeply on what makes you human.

The practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving help us journey more deeply in our relationship with God. I encourage you to use this season of Lent to grow in your relationship with God! Let this Lent be different! Let this Lent change you! Let this Lent be a time of increased faith!