Learning the spiritual discipline of forgiveness is essential and it can be difficult, even if in the end, it is primarily about letting go of hurt and anger and offering it over to God.
As difficult as that can be, there is another step in actually living out forgiveness which can demand even more of us: reconciliation.
While we may not be reconciled to everyone, and there may be some situations where it is simply impossible, it is a step in living faithfully as disciples of Jesus. There are times, particularly where we have been the one who has caused the hurt, where we need to learn and move into reconciliation
This can take a long time. It can be painful. And it requires all parties to actually listen carefully to each other. You can forgive someone without actually having to speak to them and without them even knowing. But reconciliation requires relationship, intentional relationship. And you can’t coerce someone into being reconciled with you–this is definitely a two-way street. If you are one who has done wrong, your apology, accountability, and full admission of your wrong may need to be presented more than once. If you are the wronged, it may take time to trust that reconciliation is honestly being sought. There’s a lot of prayer and opening to the presence of God involved.
In Canada we have undertaken a Truth and Reconciliation process with Indigenous peoples. So the first part, for those of us not Indigenous, was being silent and listening to the truth. That was hard. It was important. And many of us heard for the first time things that had never been spoken before.
Now comes the long work. Reconciliation requires change. It means changing how we behave, how we respond, how we connect with each other, how we show respect and care. Most of all, it means changing our view of who we are in relationship, changing our hearts. In the case of the Truth and Reconciliation process, it may be generations–although I pray it will be fewer rather than more. Slowly we are learning to listen, to ask what people want, to ask what we need to do to move into reconciliation, to make concrete progress, as small as it may seem, on the road to reconciliation.
With friends or family, or between church groups, it should not take generations. It does require listening, being silent, being fully present to each other in the presence of God open to the Spirit. It requires change–transformation even. It requires fully embracing the grace of God and the desire to be filled with the love of Jesus. Do not think it will be easy, without tears, frustration or even anger. Change is not straightforward.
But then, what are we Jesus followers about if it isn’t transformation? That was the great gift of God in Jesus. It’s just that we were never promised that it would be easy. The journey, though, is one of joy and hope. And Jesus continually invited people of all kinds, even those who had harmed another, into new relationships, into a new way of being.
Take a breath. Say a prayer. Make a commitment to be reconciled and made new. That is God’s gift and God’s wish for you.