I recently revisited a conference held by Father William Menninger, one of the architects of the rebirth of centering prayer in recent decades. Fr. Menninger was talking about a subject close to our hearts. The topic of forgiveness.

While the conference was close to an hour long, it was too much material to try and cover here in these short few minutes of this reflection; one point struck home with me.

We often think of forgiveness as something we’re asking for from God, that is for ourselves of course. And then another form is being forgiven by others for some infraction that has caused consternation or worse. And then finally, of course, you have the third form of forgiveness where we are forgiving someone for something done to us; or it could be, just how they are.

How do you know this in your own life when you ask for God’s forgiveness, given perhaps in reconciliation, and you still haven’t accepted it? I know this has happened in my life, when I’ve asked for forgiveness for someone I’ve wronged, forgiveness was given to me by God, yet I still felt unforgiven in some way. A wise spiritual director once told me you need to get over this, you’re putting yourself above God if you feel like you haven’t been forgiven after you have received God’s forgiveness. That made great sense to me, and I’ve tried to take that advice on board since that discussion with the wise director.

The second form, when someone forgives us for something we have done, seems to work without too much difficulty. Sometimes we must ask that person for forgiveness. Even so, when it is given with a pure heart, we accept it. This seems to be the form of forgiveness with the fastest healing, change, and reconciliation. We sometimes repeat this pattern of course, it’s often not a one-and-done deal, but nevertheless seems to be the least confusing form of forgiveness.

Then there is the third form of forgiveness, the one where we offer it up to someone else where we are the ones doing the forgiving. In many cases, particularly in the third form of forgiveness where we’re offering it up, there seem to be residuals there. And it is here that Father Menninger tells us what forgiveness really is. He does this with a beautiful phrase called love rehealed. Those two words love rehealed say all for me. When we feel forgiven, or forgive someone truly, it does not mean we forget the event or problem that was caused, but we do the healing process associated with it. Menninger sees forgiveness as a by-product of a healed state of love and peace within us. I think this is true. It does not bypass the guilt, bad feelings, identity consequences and other sometimes terrible things that make up the facts surrounding the need for forgiveness. But it does end up returning us to a state of love, as the primary place we want to be. A new disposition, a state of love repaired, of love rehealed from the inflicted wound.

Have you ever thought of forgiveness being just a by-product of love? We often tend to think of this as a discrete process. Something separate, even secular in nature. However, no forgiveness is present unless we (and preferably the other party) return to a state of inner peace. What are your thoughts on the matter? Where are you spiritually when it comes to forgiveness?

Photograph and Refection, Copyright 2023 Michael J. Cunningham OFS

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One thought on “Love Rehealed

  1. Thank you for reminder on how not forgiving can lead to distress. I recall in preparation for step 4 in big book of Alcoholics Anonymous that resentment is the ‘number one offender’ and may be quite harmful to one’s spiritual progress. I’m not aware of any remarkable personal resentments or unwillingness to forgive at this time. I do occasionally harbor some feelings of ill will towards owners of unrestrained dogs, but try to not let it trouble me for too long.

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