Of all the Christian virtues that are difficult to practice, I think forgiveness is probably the hardest. As the mark of the Christian, it is deep, symbolic, and telling.
The gospels have several stories on forgiveness, probably the most succinct and direct being the “Our Father.” Forgive us, as we forgive those who sin against us. In the monastic life, it was often pointed out to me that this prayer says, in effect: God look at me. And as I forgive or do not forgive, that is how I want you to treat me.
But I think it is more. I think forgiveness says I accept my vulnerability. I acknowledge my mess up. I see that I am not perfect, and so will not expect another to be what I am not. It is me saying, okay, you offended me, hurt me, abused me. But I will not set that act in stone. Just as I do not always do the right thing, I will give you to freedom to be human and imperfect as well. I will see this for what it is…human frailty.
I think failure to forgive is telling. I think it means I have not accepted my own vulnerability, and so cannot accept the vulnerability of another. It says I am not secure. It says I am still clinging to the fallacy that it is possible to be perfect.
Psychologists and counselors will tell you, forgiveness is not only good, but necessary for your mental health. Jesus would tell you, forgiveness is good for your peace of mind. It is good for your soul. It is good for your heart. To forgive is to acknowledge your own human status. It is to accept that I am not the only one who does not get it right all the time. It is to have the gentle heart and the open eyes that says, yea, we are all in this together.