I’ve learned a lot about forgiveness this holiday season.
It’s not because I’ve necessarily gone through instances of having to forgive large grievances committed against me, but because I’ve found myself thinking about the difference between forgiving someone and telling them that their actions are okay.
I think we need to stop saying “it’s okay” when it’s not. For example, a while back I had fought with one of my friends, and when she apologized, I kept repeating, “It’s okay.” I immediately regretted my choice of words, because she and I both knew that her actions weren’t okay.
Yet they were forgiven. She was forgiven.
Forgiving her, and forgiving anyone who I find myself in a disagreement with, takes some time and effort. It’s by no means easy, and I’ve come to accept that. It keeps me conscious of the fact that forgiveness is a process, and it’s something that I need to focus on and work on a lot. Forgiving someone doesn’t just happen.
Telling someone “it’s okay” when something that they did truly hurt you or was detrimental to them is one of the greatest disservices that you can do them and yourself.
Because it is forgiveness, not “okayness,” that changes people.
Last week, on the feast day of St. Dionysios, I went to Divine Liturgy for St. Dionysios, and it was during the sermon that the profound power of forgiveness hit me as I heard about another one of the miracles of this amazing saint.
Among his many, many miracles, one of the most famous and truly awe-inspiring stories about St. Dionysios is the one in which he has the ability to forgive the man who murdered his brother. It’s the reason why this saint is the paragon of forgiveness for many people.
The man who had committed the murder committed a sinful action, and it hurt many people, probably most of all himself; these are undeniable facts. And telling someone that something like that is okay is not what’s going to help them, or you, come to terms with any of it.
As St. Dionysios showed us, forgiveness does not have to come with the reassurance of saying “it’s okay.” Forgiveness is enough in itself.
And Christ forgives others for that as readily as he forgives us; far more readily than we can forgive others, and surely more readily than we tend to forgive ourselves.
A sin that you committed, or one that was committed against you, will not sit well with you. It might pain you to look back on it for a long time. It might sit festering, or you may receive an apology, but you never owe an “it’s okay,” to anyone: to yourself, or to the person who wronged you.
Instead of “it’s okay,” try “I forgive you.” Just as Christ has done for you.
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Maria is the Administrative Coordinator of Y2AM. She is a New York native who isn't completely sold on the city's charm, yet has never left. A proud graduate of Fordham University and occasional runner, she is happiest whenever chocolate, a sale, or a good Gilmore Girls reference is involved.