Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How can I forgive? How can I forget?

Never underestimate the gifts of the Holy Spirit in unmasking the things you need to jettison in your quest for holiness.

If we are willing to go deeper, He will help us to go deeper.

When I go to confession, my confessor poses a few questions to me:

Do you know God loves you? (That’s when my eyes usually fill up with tears. Seriously, I have just come clean about my worst self, and God shows up to assure me that He loves me. Who wouldn't tear up?)

Do you want to become holy? (I truly do, but I'm such mess.)

Are you willing to receive the help of the Holy Spirit? (Totally.)

And then I go back to my life. But the crazy thing of it is this. God begins showing up everywhere to take me closer and closer to the holy version of me - closer to the woman that He created me to be.

Recently, I uncovered a pitfall in this quest for holiness. I knew something was wrong with me. It’s not right to replay other people's offenses against you in your head. I was stuck in a pattern. Each time I remembered the offense, I would be hurt all over again and have to make another act of forgiveness. I couldn’t seem to forget.

My own memory was hijacking me.

It was hijacking my quest for holiness.

So, I needed some major help from the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. A little wisdom. Some understanding. Right judgment. Knowledge about what was happening and why it was happening and how to stop it from happening over and over.

It would be so much easier to get amnesia. Forgiveness is an act of the will. I did all that. But what can a person do with an active memory.

Every time I see that person … I remember.

To not remember – well, that’s not even possible.

And yet, it seemed necessary in order to get out of this spin cycle I had fallen into.

I don’t remember when I figured it out or why I figured it out. I just know that I did. Somehow, the Holy Spirit came through on that promise to lend some help to the penitent soul. And that’s when I realized…

… the problem is arrogance and pride.

The antidote is meekness and humility.

So, each time I remembered… I would have a chat with myself. Come on, Denise. Drop the arrogance. Blessed Mother, teach me to be more like you. Help me to learn how to be meek and humble of heart.

If I did that the very second in which my memory took me back to the offending moment—my hurt evaporated. Peace took its place.

Then, that truth was underscored in an unlikely place. I was scanning some boards on Pinterest. I
usually stop and read the text on pictures of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. And this time, it was pure gold. Forgiving requires love; forgetting requires humility.

That was it. That was the very thing I was discovering. I knew I loved the offender. I truly did. That’s why I was able to forgive again and again – every time the memory took me back. The thing I had trouble with was humility. Humility would enable me to let the memory go before it had a chance to take me back. Humility ended the spin cycle.

And the thing I was realizing was that I didn’t even have to have the strength to be humble. All I had to do was call in the troops for assistance in the effort.

Jesus, help me to be more like you right now.

Blessed Mother, throw your mantle over me and show me what meekness and humility look like.

Archangel Michael, defend me in this battle…

Unbelievable how much difference this all makes.

So, just when I thought I had gathered together all the bits and pieces the Holy Spirit wanted to show me, I got another lesson. Where? Today at Bible study.

When we fall into the trap of labeling other people solely in light of their sin, we see nothing else good in that person. Who wants to be defined by his or her worst moments? I certainly don’t. And it is a pretty awful existence to see others and immediately think of just one thing… that thing.

Suddenly, the windows of my mind opened, and I remembered the good in the very people that had offended me in the past.

I thought about all that the Holy Spirit had taught me…

And it was very, very good.

Do you know that God loves you?

Do you want to become holy?

Are you willing to accept the help of the Holy Spirit?

Answer yes to all three of those questions—and look out. God is about to do a new work in you.



  1. Thank you for sharing this. I want to remember now that the antidote to "remembering" after forgiveness is meekness and humility. This is so important and I so appreciate your reflection on this!

  2. It is really difficult to forgive but more difficult to forget. I admit that I am very guilty of this--forgiving without forgetting. I am glad that you've learned to overcome this very difficult problem and I am truly grateful for sharing this to us. All we need is meekness and humility. :)

  3. Denise,
    I always enjoy your articles, but I absolutely love this. Thank you for sharing.