With Lent starting in two days, I’ve narrowed down what I plan to give up. I’ve decided on two bad habits: Facebook and fingernail biting. I do both things without thinking and each cost me something. Facebook costs time and fingernail biting costs my nails (duh). Research says it takes 21 days to develop a habit, so when April 16 arrives I should no longer feel the need to pick at or chew my nails or surf through Facebook. Two negative habits will be conquered through discipline and sacrifice.
If you asked a non-Catholic to associate a phrase with Lent, most would say, “A time to give something up like sweets or TV.” They’re not 100% wrong, Lent is a time of sacrifice, which means giving up something that you enjoy. Lent is also about forgiveness. Forgiveness is becoming less meaningful. When someone screws up and says they’re sorry, half the time they don’t even mean it. The words float out of their mouth out of habit. While the offended may nod and say it’s ok. Have they really practiced forgiveness? Not quite.
An article from Christianity Today highlights three steps for forgiveness: surrender the desire to get even, rediscover the wrongdoer’s humanity and wish them well. There’s no way someone who says “It’s ok” right away has had time to complete these steps. You should take time before you forgive someone – your response doesn’t have to be immediate. You also don’t have to forget what the person did, just don’t let it cause a grudge. When I’m hurt by someone, I try to force it out of my mind. But the more I try to push it out, the more ingrained it becomes.
I’ve never been skilled at forgiving. I’m guilty of saying “It’s ok” after being hurt or wronged, and when I do that I’m depriving myself and the offender time to reflect on the transgression. A fake line of forgiveness doesn’t help anyone. The key is time. Even though God forgives us in a single breath, we don’t have that ability. We require time to pray, reflect and listen to the Holy Spirit.
“Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.” – Micah 7:18