CATHOLIC BY GRACE | Humility is the key to true forgiveness

Never underestimate the Holy Spirit in revealing those things that one needs to jettison. Recently, the Holy Spirit sat me down and had a come-to-Jesus chat with me.

I was replaying someone's offense over and over in my mind. Every time I remembered the offense, I would feel the betrayal anew, which led to another act of forgiveness. My memory was hijacking me.

I needed some help from the gifts of the Holy Spirit. A little wisdom. Some understanding. A helping of right judgment.

It would be so much easier to get amnesia. Forgiveness may be an act of the will, but what can a person do with an active memory? How could I stop remembering? Would I ever get out of the spin cycle I had fallen into?

With a little help from the Holy Spirit, I realized that the problem was arrogance and pride – which meant the antidote was meekness and humility.

So, each time I remembered, I would hit my knees.

If I did that the very second in which my memory took me back to the offense, my hurt evaporated and peace took its place. And I mean in the very second -- like when stepping out of the shower and I'm shivering cold or when snuggled down under the covers for the night. I immediately began to pray, on my knees.

Within a few weeks, I stumbled across this quote by Blessed Teresa of Calcutta: "Forgiving requires love; forgetting requires humility." The Holy Spirit was nodding.

Humility was the key. 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. Humility enabled me to let the memory go.

I didn't have to be a spiritual giant to take down the memory monster. I just had to appeal to the Holy Spirit.

When we fall into the trap of labeling other people solely in light of their sin, we stop seeing the good in that person. That's what my confessor says, and then he adds, "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.

Within weeks, I began remembering the good in the one who had hurt me in the past. That's some kind of spiritual miracle. That's the power of God active in the life of a believer. I stopped remembering the thing, and I remembered how to love.

This is not a self-improvement program. It's not about working on one's bad habits. Jesus Christ changes us.

We talk about the good news and saint-making, but what does that mean?

Are we really just the same people, doing the same things in all the same ways? Is the only notable difference between us and everybody else a mere label? What does it mean to be a follower of Christ? What does it mean to be Catholic?

It means that even the most ingrained habits can change. In fact, the things in us that don't look like Christ must change!

I must be conformed to the image of my Lord Jesus Christ -- the one who forgives even the worst sinner -- even me. The same power that raised Jesus from the dead transforms us. And the spin cycle of sin loses its hold on our lives.

Go ahead. Hit your knees. There is power there. You were meant for far greater things than relentless bitterness. You have been called to the abundant life in Christ. It's kind of amazing that one can discover joy and freedom in the simple act of kneeling before God.

Bossert is a member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in New Melle. Read more at

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