Forgiveness Anyways

Two nights ago I held a large celebration at my home for a milestone birthday for my mother. It was a truly joyous event. God granted us health and good-weather and lavished us with good food, music and company. Many of my mothers friends came from out of town to celebrate, including one of my mother’s oldest and dearest friends who has a loving but turbulent relationship. Perhaps she had a bit too much to drink, was overtired from her journey, perhaps she was a bit jealous of the many other friends surrounding my mother – but her behavior became really quite hostile, attracting the attention of several other guests. She was angry, loud, even a little aggressive with me as I tried to explain that it might be better for her to stay at our house for the night rather than my mother’s. The details may not be important and at this point are only slander – I will leave it there.
The important thing was that while I began in patience and gentleness I quickly grew angry, loud and impatient myself. My 6 year old daughter was nearby and was in tears over the whole scene. My husband even said as we went to sleep that this guest is not welcome here in our home again.
And yet – forgiveness? Forgiveness. Not seven times but seventy-seven and more.
And yet – mercy? As we wish to also be shown mercy in our weakness and sin.
And yet – love? A love so vast that it lays down its life for another.
A Healing Force
I need these things for this friend – to show her that those who believe in Christ do not just love in word and speech, but in deed and truth. I need these things for myself, for my soul and its wholeness. I need these things for my children, because my modeling of any virtue is worth more than any lesson I could ever give. And she needs these things because all anger comes from pain and if she is hurting she needs more love not less.
And if she is still angry? Or if she denies there was ever a problem? Or makes light of the whole thing? Forgiveness anyway. The truth is that most of the time forgiveness will be a one way street. We need to forgive always, but many of the people we will be angry at will never ask for our forgiveness. Maybe we don’t know them. Maybe they don’t think they did anything wrong. Maybe they don’t want to apologize.
We can’t force forgiveness
Yesterday in my home my three older children had a massive fight over legos. I asked everyone to come to the living room so we could talk it through and my 4 year old said angrily “Fine, but I won’t say I’m sorry!” I don’t know about you, but I know that feeling.
We can’t force anyone to truly forgive. Forgiveness is not an external act, but an internal movement of the heart. We can’t force our children to forgive anyone, or to ask for forgiveness (essentially to “say your sorry!”). And I am of the school of thought that we should not try and force them to. (This article here explains why – and what to do instead). They need to get to that place in their hearts before they can speak in truth.
While we can force ourselves to say we’re sorry, if there is not truth behind it it is only a resounding gong or clanging symbol. And if we search our hearts deeply enough we see that behind not wanting to forgive is most often pride and vainglory lurking – two demonic influences which need to be constantly rebuked.
… But we can practice
So what to do – forgive anyways. Practice it whenever you can. You are mad at that person in traffic – forgive them. You can’t believe what that person wrote on social media – forgive them. You are outraged by a politician or world leader – forgive them. Your child turned right back around and disobeyed you again – forgive them. Your spouse forgot to put away their clothes/unload the dishwasher/ pick up the medicine from the pharmacy again – forgive them.
Forgiveness is one of the biggest weapons we can in our spiritual arsenal and we need to wield it as often as possible and as quickly as possible. St. Macarius of Optina warns us:

“Do not allow the spark of discord and enmity to smolder. The longer you wait, the more the enemy tries to cause confusion among you. Be watchful, so that he does not mock you. Humility destroys all of his schemes.”

Practice forgiveness all the time. Model forgiveness for your children and introduce a new moment in evening prayers for folks to recognize anyone they might be harboring bad feelings towards and pray for them. Pray that the Lord will care for them and heal them, pray that He will soften our hearts and will allow us to do the hard work of forgiving – again and again – until our last breath. I’m off to practice it myself right now.

May our every effort be blessed,


About Sasha Rose Oxnard

Sasha Rose is an Orthodox Christian and a mom. She also happens to be a family doctor, a wife, friend, daughter, amateur gardener, lover of music, dance, art, animals, nature and all things playful. Now adding blogger and writer to the list. She currently lives, works and prays in New England with her husband, four small children, dog, 2 cats and 5 chickens.

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