As the Year of Faith concludes, Pope Francis has been tweeting on the topic of forgiveness, among others. Aleteia's Brantly Milligan presents seven such tweets along with a brief preface on the connection between forgiveness and salvation.
For many people the topic of "salvation" seems too distant or remote for immediate consideration. Indebted to our Jewish forebears, we may consider shalom (peace, well-being, health, wholeness) as the sneak-preview, or mortgage payment, of salvation. You can inhabit a house on which you are making mortgage payments!
The forgiving person knows what it is like to be offended. Perhaps, for a time, the offense may beleaguer his emotions; for what human being would not spontaneously feel the pain caused to him or one he loves, or feel the indignant smart of ego? But the merciful one (blessed is he!) does not allow offenses to control his understanding and freedom. Mindful, too, of the times he himself has offended others, he therefore proceeds to forgive--that is to say, to allow the offender the opportunity to regain (or gain for the first time) peace.
To "for-give" is to extend oneself so that another may grow through the disorder and disease caused by his offense. This certainly applies to the curious activity/process of "forgiving oneself," a topic about which several people have sought clarification from me in a very short time. Forgiving oneself is allowing yourself not to be defined by, limited to, the sin in question. You may have committed an unspeakable offense with unforeseen and grave ramifications. You may have expressed sorrow and regret, the wish to undo the action or unspeak the word if it were possible. You may have heard the irretrievable word of mercy from Christ's priest, and, when possible, from the offended party. Without "forgiving yourself," however, it's like trying to catch a fastball without a mitt.
Then there are traumatic occasions when one isn't guilty of an actual sin, or where the guilt is compromised by pressures from within or without. Here the ambiguity causes palpable torque in the unforgiving subject. The unforgiving subject has difficulty projecting outside of himself, even for just a moment, to see himself from a different, more compassionate perspective. Here an objective voice can provide helpful clarification and encouragement. Even so, if unforgiveness persists (and, if it persists, it also intensifies), the personal application of mercy can be delayed indefinitely, creating the feeling that "everyone else out there" has received the passcode or the owner's manual to a joyful life!
Where begin to permit oneself the relaxation and vigor of a second chance? In acquiring the habit of gratitude, however contrived and nauseating it may seem at first. To choose gratitude is to project outside of one's own inhibited interiority long enough to notice the goodness of someone or something outside of oneself. For the chronically ungrateful, bitter, or depressed, this often can be a most difficult endeavor. It takes courage and persistence.
Some people make a point of writing down, or at least mentally itemizing, persons, things or situations that inspire gratitude. As one becomes more capable of "living in the moment," he can become acutely aware of motives for gratitude and respond with seemingly impulsive delight. Public displays of gratitude need not be gushing or saccharine; upturned lips or raised eyebrows would suffice.
Somewhere you can find the obvious results of an expensive study, to the effect that physical expressions of happiness result in an increase of the appropriate favorable chemicals in the brain. I'd bet that the same chemicals can be found in the brain of the person in the act of granting forgiveness, as this act, like the choice of gratitude, is a mental exercise that strengthens one's capacity to affirm goodness. To forgive oneself is to recognize the existence of interior goodness as a quality that survives and indeed transcends any harm. Just as the mental discipline of unforgiveness is reinforced with persistence and increased intensity, forgiveness likewise thrives.
Pope Francis speaks for all sacramental conduits of mercy--all priests--when he tweets of the Church as "a place where everyone is welcomed, loved, and forgiven." For the moment, and only with God's eager extension of mercy, resolve to sit in, and walk in, the truth that "you" are a subset of "everyone."