Father Mike Schmitz talks about forgiveness from the perspective of justice. When someone has done wrong to us, there is something owed. In forgiveness, we can say, “With God’s grace, I’m not going to make you pay me back… I release you from your debt.” It’s a beautiful way to describe it, and when we can say it, we can be freed from holding the debt ourselves. The risk of continuing to hold onto that debt is that focusing on what has been done to us can prevent us from seeing what God is doing with us. (Be Not Afraid, p. 70) He may be calling us to grow in wisdom and good judgment. He may be calling us to grow in mercy. He may be calling us to grow in empathy and understanding. It’s almost impossible to see if we can’t let go of the wrong done and the justice owed.
The funny thing about it is that this doesn’t require the other person to be sorry. It is irrelevant to our being able to forgive. It is only relevant to their ability to repent, change, and move forward. This doesn’t preclude consequences being paid. Consequences can be allowed to happen at the same time that forgiveness is granted. It’s a tricky concept sometimes, but one well worth contemplating.
Here’s Father Mike’s talk: