Saturday, 12 March 2011

Turn the Other Cheek? Forgive and Forget? Lenten Dialogue

As Alexander Pope said - to err is human, to forgive is divine.*

As normal blokes and women, it is all too often hard to turn the other cheek.

It sounds so simple doesn't it? It is an easy to understand command, it should be easy to do. Yet in practice it is far from easy!

We are normal people. Yes, we are Catholics (by the Grace of God and not our own "power") and called to Sainthood, but we are still all too normal. Sinners. Failing. Falling. Even those of us who have picked up our crosses and are struggling on our own Via Dolorosa, all too often fall (as did Christ) but use it as an excuse for a time-out, instead of having the courage to get to the Confessional, and quickly get back on that weary path that (from a worldly perspective) can be so thankless.

Thus it is that we struggle along - and what happens when some bampot crosses our path with an evil word, a malevolent deed, or even worse some underhand and dirty trick (even dressed up as Saintliness) against someone we love.

How easy is it then to follow the command of Our Lord? How easy is it then to forgive?

Especially if a loved one has been hurt, when should we demand justice, when should we seek to turn the other cheek?

It's not so easy then is it? Not so straight forward?

A drunk driver carelessly mows down your young child and fails to stop.

Would you have the strength to forgive?

I honestly don't think in those circumstances I would. I would certainly hope and pray before Our Lord and try to find solace in Him, but in such circumstances I can fully understand those who demand justice.

I daresay this is a theological point, and the theologians can no doubt say that both justice and forgiveness can be sought at one and the same time (isn't that the whole basis of Purgatory?).

Outside of this perhaps most "extreme" example of the drunk driver, in our daily lives we often have people who annoy, belittle, attack, trivialise us. I think in these circumstances we should forgive and forget. That is not to say we should leave ourselves as open targets, nor fail to report bad behaviour when we fear it could be turned against others who may not be able to handle it, but I do think it is vital to (in modern world terms) "move on."

When Our Lord sent his disciples out to preach he said to them that if a town rejects them, that they were to simply (I paraphrase) 'shake the dust from their feet' and move on.

I believe this is the same mentality and Divine Guidance when it comes to turning the other cheek.

For when we dwell on past wrongs, let them eat us up inside, work out ways of revenge, worry about the person who wronged us etc. it is like a worm burying its way into our guts, ever nibbling and gnawing away, ever bothering and disturbing us.

In forgiving these people and turning the other cheek, we are in effect, shaking the dust from our feet and moving on.

Don't worry about them. Move on. Get on with good things. Be positive. There is so much in this world we can do for ourselves, for our families, for our communities and parishes, for strangers, for the poor...

I am minded of Mother Theresa's words re. that people will attack you for doing good - do good anyway etc.

To constantly wrangle over a wrong committed against us can, I think, make the perpetrator the final victor because he has succeeded in tying us up in knots over his action. When we shrug our shoulders and walk on, the perpetrator is left powerless and may (it is hoped) give up a lost cause.

Certainly it is my experience that when you are wronged and you fight back (even with right on your side) the person assaulting you with calumnies will simply twist and turn and add in more lies and half-truths, thus eating up more of your time and energy in gainsaying these things.

This Lent then, just try and let some past (or current!) grievance that has weighed on you for some time slip away. Forgive the person in your heart and pray for their eternal soul.

It may not be easy, but it will release you and let you move on.

After all, if you are knocked down this coming week and are lucky enough to have a priest attend your dying moments, you will be asked if you forgive everyone who has sinned against you.

Better to do so beforehand?

We say the Pater Noster every day. Do we listen to the words we are saying?

Forgive us our trespasses.
As we forgive those who trespass against us.


*I apologise, I first posted this, thinking it was a quote from Our Lord. My poor theology, Bible knowledge shows through yet again. I am still learning... Pope was born in London, 1688 to Catholic parents and went to "illegal" Catholc schools.


  1. I must say that well written and thought provoking post stopped me in my tracks Gareth. It started me thinking and not just on one level.
    Some questions there that I will be turning over in my mind as I work out in the garden this afternoon. I can always rely on you for inspiration!
    Wishing you A Blessed Lent on a very grey day up here in North Wales.

  2. Thanks RWJ. So you are a "gog" - a North Walian. Croeso. It's quite bleak down here in the South West too. Perhaps the Sun will shine on us for Easter, when the Son will definately shine!

    Have you tried the blog A Repentant Sinner? It's superb: and he's a "gog" too (albeit in the heart of Lloegr).

    Thanks for your support RWJ. God bless you.

  3. "As Our Lord Himself said - to err is human, to forgive is divine."

    Please check. I don't think He did say that.