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Healing Memories – Forgiveness

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Forgiveness is the letting go of negative emotions from the hurts (real or imagined) others inflict on me. It does not mean to condone, excuse, or forget the wrong doing but frees me and the other from my anger and other related, negative emotions. Unless we forgive, we cannot be free. When Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us…as we forgive…” that was not a threat but a realization that if we do not forgive others we are bound by our lack of forgiveness as well.

Skill Definition:

  • I can recognize who I need to forgive.
  • I can forgive those who hurt me.
  • I can let go of resentment, anger and contempt.
  • I can move from resentment to gratitude, fear to love, exclusion to inclusion.

Key Learning Points:

  • Jesus made it very clear that we are called to forgive others, “and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
  • Resentment, anger and contempt are negative emotions that can result from a lack of forgiveness and limit my ability to love and live.
  • Spiritual growth leads to movement from: resentment to gratitude, fear and anger to love, contempt/exclusion to inclusion.

Faith Worldview:

“The joy of God is the joy of forgiveness. It is the joy of the shepherd who finds his lost sheep; the joy of the woman who finds her lost coin; the joy of the father who welcomes home his lost son.”

“This is all the Gospel, here; this is Christianity! But this is not sentimentalism or bland ‘do-goodism’; on the contrary, mercy is the true force that can save man and the world from the ‘cancer’ of sin, from moral and spiritual malaise. Only love can fill the gaps, the negative abysses that evil opens up in our hearts and in history. Only love can do this, and this is the joy of God.” Pope Francis September 16, 2013

Learning Path:

Deeper Topics:

  • Resentment, Anger, Contempt. Robert C. Solomon, a professor of philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, places resentment on the same line-continuum with contempt and anger. According to him, the differences between the three emotions are as follows: resentment is directed towards higher-status individuals, anger is directed towards equal-status individuals and contempt is directed towards lower-status individuals. These negative emotions are the result of our inability to forgive others.
  • Spiritual Formation. Henri Nouwen, a psychologist, theologian and priest taught that spiritual formation, (growth in the spirit) can be shown as movement between polarities and the three polarities he describes that relate to forgiveness are:
    • from resentment to gratitude
    • from fear to love
    • from exclusion to inclusion

Exercises for Older Teens and Adults:

  •  What is Resentment and how do I forgive those I resent?
    • Sometimes we feel like someone is being treated better than we are and we resent that.
    • The Older brother in the parable of the prodigal son is often overlooked let’s watch The Other Prodigal Son –YouTube
    • Who do you resent? Confess your resentment “within a safe and supportive faith community”? “When this happens we create a space for forgiveness and grace…God’s liberating grace is able to make all things new. We learn how to sing a new song and develop a new spirit of thanksgiving in which all life can be received as a gift.” Henri Nouwen
    • Instead of focusing on what someone has that we don’t, we can focus on being grateful to God for what we do have and for the freedom to transform relationships. Spend time daily reflecting on what you have to be grateful for.
  •  What is anger how do I forgive those who make me angry?
    • How can I move from fear to love?
    • View Power of Forgiveness – YouTube
    • Why did Mary Johnson have a right to be “angry”?
    • How did Mary forgive “Oshay”?
    • How has Mary’s forgiveness improved her life and “Oshay’s”?
    • Who are you angry with? What can you do to free yourself and the person you are angry with?
    • Use tools below.
  • What is contempt and how do we free ourselves from contempt?
    • Robert Solomon states that contempt is directed towards people we see as “lower-status individuals”.
    • Sometime we judge people we don’t even know. Our prejudice, bias, contempt for those different from us is a kind of collective lack of acceptance hurting ourselves and them.
    • We need to move from excluding others to including others to be free. Watch video Circles
    • Who do you exclude (those who are differently abled? different skin color? Different status?)?
    • How can you, with God, draw a circle and let them in?

Exercises for Younger Teens (13-16):

  • Same as above

Questions to Encourage Critical Thinking:

  • Who do I need to forgive?
  • How has my lack of forgiveness hurt myself, my relationships, and especially my relationship with God?

Tools and Templates:

Word Definition:

  • Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, and lets go of negative emotions such as vengefulness, with an increased ability to wish the offender well. Wikipedia
  • Resentment is the experience of a negative emotion (anger or hatred, for instance) felt as a result of a real or imagined wrong done Wikipedia
  • Anger is an emotional response related to one’s psychological interpretation of having been threatened. Often it indicates when one’sbasic boundaries are violated. Wikipedia
  • Contempt is a secondary emotion and is a mix of the primary emotions disgust and anger…directed towards lower-status individuals. Wikipedia

 Short Stories/Essays:




Faith-Based Quotes:

  • “And beyou kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4-32
  • “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13

Other Quotes:

  • “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” – Mahatma Ghandi
  • “If we do an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, we will be a blind and toothless nation.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
  • “He drew a circle that shut me out. Heretic rebel, a thing to flout.  But love and I had the wit to win: We drew a circle and took him in!” – Edwin Markham

One-Point Lesson:

Related Skills:

Summary 2-page Lesson Examples:

  • None at this time.

A special thank you to Linda Wihl for the Christian Spirituality wikis. Linda is a local leader in the Ignatian Volunteer Corps. http://www.ivcusa.org/