Well, it all goes back to the reason why people observe and celebrate Lent: to strengthen their spirituality through practices such as reflection, almsgiving, and fasting. For many, repentance and forgiveness are a natural next step when taking a closer look at their spirituality or faith lives.
What Is Forgiveness According to the Bible?
The Bible has many passages on forgiveness. Some of the more well-known ones are found in the New Testament, including the parable of the unforgiving servant where Jesus instructs his followers to forgive “not seven times but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:22) and the oft-cited parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15.
Of course, there is a special tie between forgiveness and Biblical passages during the Lent and Easter seasons—it is, after all, the season that reflects on Jesus’s sacrifice to forgive sins. At the Last Supper, Jesus offers his disciples a cup and says, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mark 26:27-28).
With this passage, as well as the forgiveness of the criminal on the cross and Jesus calling for his Father to forgive his crucifiers in Luke 23, it’s easy to see why forgiveness is such a vital component of this period of reflection. It was an inherent part of the sacrifice that the season commemorates.
How Forgiveness Helps You
Of course, while the season celebrates Jesus’s sacrifice to forgive our sins, it’s also a chance to look at how we practice forgiveness. Not only does it help you grow your spirituality, but it improves your overall health.
The Mayo Clinic offers up these possible benefits of forgiveness:
- Healthier relationships
- Improved mental health
- Less anxiety, stress, and hostility
- Lower blood pressure
- Fewer symptoms of depression
- A stronger immune system
- Improved heart health
- Improved self-esteem
On the flipside, holding onto grudges can be harmful to your health. Stewing over past insults and slights can lead to more anxiety and depression, and make it harder for you to open yourself to new people and new experiences.
Therefore, by regularly practicing forgiveness, you can improve multiple aspects of your life, leading to a more holistic lifestyle.
Forgiveness vs. Reconciliation
A question many people ask is: “Are forgiveness and reconciliation the same?” From a religious standpoint, the two are frequently used synonymously. For example, in the Catholic Church, in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, it is believed God grants forgiveness.
However, in your day-to-day life, some argue that there is a difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. In an article for Psychology Today, Ryan Howes Ph.D., ABPP, asserts that “reconciliation is a separate issue” from forgiveness.
“In my model, forgiveness is an internal process where you work through the hurt, gain an understanding of what happened, rebuild a sense of safety, and let go of the grudge. The offending party is not necessarily a part of this process,” Howes says. “On the other hand, reconciliation is an interpersonal process where you dialogue with the offender about what happened, exchange stories, express the hurt, listen for the remorse, and begin to reestablish trust. … Forgiveness is solo, reconciliation is a joint venture.”
Forgiveness Is a Process
Forgiveness can be a lot harder than it sounds. Sure, it helps keep you mentally, spiritually, and even physically healthy, but it can be difficult. That’s why it’s important to keep in mind that it’s a process. You might not be able to forgive every transgression automatically, no matter what your spiritual beliefs or moral principles are. And that’s okay.
Here are a few forgiveness activity suggestions to help you with the process this Lent:
- Define what forgiveness means to you. It helps take some time to reflect on your personal beliefs on the subject before applying them to a situation in your life.
- Write about it. Sometimes it’s difficult to express your feelings about a betrayal or wrongdoing—whether you were the injured party or the transgressor. Writing about it can help. Try a letter, journal entry, or personal essay to help collect your thoughts.
- Try to look at it from a different perspective. If you’re the wronged party, it can be difficult to understand someone else’s motivations for an action that caused you pain. However, it can sometimes be helpful to look at it from their point of view or talk it out with them.
Want to Join The Esquiline’s Lenten Challenge?
This year we’re inviting everyone to participate in our Lenten Challenge, which offers opportunities for prayer, reflection, and giving throughout the season. You can download the Lenten Challenge here to receive a 2018 Lent activity calendar, a closer look at the meaning of Lent, tips for spiritual growth, and more.
And if you’re interested in spiritual growth, you can also download our free guide, How to Incorporate Spirituality into Your Life.