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On Tuesday I wrote in regards to the Gospel lesson for the day from Matthew 6, when our Lord taught His disciples the Pater Noster. My intention from the beginning was to include this part 2 with the original post, but the first post was getting long and I was running out of time. (Also to be noted, there was a typo in the original post that has been corrected in the last paragraph.)

What I want to discuss today in regards to forgiveness comes from von Hildebrand’s book The Heart, an Analysis of Human and Divine Affectivity. I am only about halfway through the book at this point but I would say that the main point is von Hildebrand's belief that the heart, as the center of affectivity, the will and the intellect should all work together within man. He is also trying to correct misunderstandings: people believe that the affective part of man shouldn’t be trusted because it is subjective and leads to sentimentality. He rebukes this misconception and shows how the affective sphere of man is necessary but must be used properly.

So how does this figure into a post on forgiveness? In the following way: just as we cannot produce feelings of love or sorrow within ourselves we cannot produce feelings of forgiveness within ourselves. Von Hildebrand puts it this way (the parenthetical statement is mine),

Joy or sorrow (or feelings of forgiveness) cannot be freely engendered as we can engender an act of will or a promise, nor can they be commanded as we can command movements of our arms.

The Heart, p. 49

Therefore, we cannot bring ourselves to feel forgiveness towards a person that has wronged us. And yet, our Lord has definitively taught us that we must forgive others their sins they have committed against us. Therefore, even if we do not feel forgiving we must pray that prayer that I listed in the first part of this post, “God I forgive them. Help me to truly meant it.” This effectively turns forgiveness into an act of the will but that does not mean that there are not feeling that should go along with it. (And this also applies to married couples. Sometimes, perhaps later into the marriage, the couple doesn’t have the same feelings of love they once had. But this does not change the fact that they must show their spouse love through actions because that is what they promised on the day of the wedding.) Even though we must often will to do something that we don't have an immediate affective response to, that does not mean that we shouldn’t open ourselves up to those proper feelings.

We can influence joy or sorrow (or feelings of forgiveness) indirectly only by preparing the ground for it in our soul, or we can sanction or disavow affective responses that have arisen spontaneously in our soul.

The Heart, p.49

We do this so that we are not cold and uncaring towards those whom we should love. And this is not unimportant – it is a part of being human. One of the best examples of the appropriateness of affective responses comes from our Lord when at Lazarus' tomb we are told, “Jesus wept.” Therefore, we should let the act of forgiving penetrate into our soul and open ourselves up to it so that we may sincerely forgive those who have wronged us.

 

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