I was watching FOX News this morning and saw my friend Father Jonathan Morris dispensing his wisdom on how to not spend too much at Christmas, how to not go over budget and over board for our family and friends. His advice was spot on, as always.
He said, “Instead of asking yourself, ‘What can I buy for this person,’ he suggested asking, ‘How can I bless this person?’”
Meaning, what can I do for my family and friends that will be a blessing to them, not just a sweater I bought on sale for them? (Christmas sweaters always get a bad rap.)
He encouraged purchasing gifts with a lot of thought behind them about the person you are buying for and how it would benefit them, but also to consider praying for others, taking them to lunch, spending time with them in various ways that would make them feel loved and blessed, not just gifted.
This got me to thinking.
I think one of the best gifts you can ever give is the gift of forgiveness. It’s something you cannot put a price tag on and means something intensely personal to the giver as well as the recipient. And after all, isn’t it the reason why Christ humbled himself and came down to earth as a lowly human being in the first place?
Forgiveness, redemption, humility. All beautiful gifts that were given to us, first, and gifts that we need to pass on to those people in our lives who need it. But also, a gift that we give ourselves as well.
Forgiving others who have hurt you is a point that a lot of people have a very difficult time with, especially if you’ve been divorced. That’s OK.
If you didn’t have at least a little problem with forgiving such deep hurt, you would either be a saint – which would be wonderful – or there would be something wrong with you emotionally.
Forgiveness is not easy, especially if you’ve been betrayed by the man or the woman who was supposed to love you for life. Betrayal doesn’t only refer to a spouse having an extramarital affair, betrayal also refers to having abusive behavior inflicted upon you, or realizing that your spouse refuses to refrain from addictive behaviors that ruin your marriage relationship and family, or even the fact that you both stood on the altar on your wedding day and promised to love each other for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health till death do you part. And if you didn’t get that, then you feel betrayed because most of us don’t walk up to the altar intending to get divorced.
Part of forgiving is also forgiving yourself. In my own divorce situation many years ago, I had to accept that I was not a perfect spouse. For at least two years after my divorce in my perspective and especially when I spoke with other people, it was all his fault. Everything was all his fault. My misery…his fault. My financial situation…his fault. My flat tire…his fault. Global warming…his fault.
My lack of forgiveness had made me a victim.
But when I learned to forgive, I stopped being a victim and I freed both of us from the clutches of my angry heart. And that began an entirely new chapter of my life.
Forgiveness is a process; it is not achieved overnight. Forgiveness is something you do every day. Every day. But forgiveness also is not something you need to do alone; God provides the grace that leads our heart to forgive and without that grace, forgiveness is impossible.
We need to pray for the graces God wants to give us that will help us forgive. We need to rely on Him to help us with this burden. Think of Jesus hanging on the cross as He was dying and being laughed at, insulted, spit upon. His words were, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” So we need to look to Christ for the example of how to forgive and ask Him for that grace.
This Christmas, consider a special note to someone who needs to be forgiven by you…and a firm resolution to actively forgive that person. It’s the gift that will continue to bring peace and joy for the rest of your life and unite you in a very special way with the blessed infant Jesus.