“…And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Mt 6: 12)
I know I already reflected on this verse of the Lord’s Prayer, not so long ago, but I need to reflect on it again today. So here it goes.
My primary “debtor,” I’m noticing, is me. There are a bunch of things I feel I “must” be doing, or “should” have done, yet do not, or did not, do. So I carry around this feeling of being in “debt,” also known as “guilt”; that is, of not having “paid up,” or met certain expectations and even demands, which I have of myself, for both legitimate and not-so-legitimate reasons. I might, for example, be resenting the fact that I’m not working on that article I began writing but never finished, or that I haven’t lost that extra weight, or haven’t properly filed those documents piled up on my desk, or contributed to the church bake-sale, or made that phone-call I should have made weeks ago, or brushed up on my Italian, or said the right thing to that family-member I'm having a conflict with, or that I've trusted or perhaps even loved the wrong person, or whatever.
But here’s a way forward: self-forgiveness. It’s not the same thing as self-justification. Forgiveness does not mean lying to myself about the “situation.” It means accepting the “situation,” as God accepts the whole dysfunctional “situation” that is our world, in His undying faith in us. He lets certain things go, because He is not the tyrant that we often are to ourselves. He has faith in us, that we can grow and learn, also through our shortcomings or “debts,” – where we fall short.
So let me have faith in God’s divine capacity to forgive, by sharing in that capacity of His, and forgiving my primary “debtor,” myself. I find that this grace, of forgiveness, liberates me from crippling self-resentment and frustration, making me more effective in doing the next right thing, in humility, despite my shortcomings. It also makes me more forgiving of others, as I take down a notch my demands and expectations of them, in humility.