“When we refuse to forgive those who have wronged us, we ironically and powerfully hurt ourselves.” ~ Brother Wayne Fitzpatrick
The Avila Institute’s latest webinar co-sponsored with the National Religious Retirement Office (NRRO) offered valuable advice and wisdom for every spiritual caregiver. Brother Wayne brought his years of expertise in working with people in vocations and working with his fellow brothers from leadership positions to his presentation. Forgiveness is a common theme in the Bible; the concept of forgiveness appears a total of 75 times. However, all too often people do not understand the importance or the ‘how’ of forgiveness. Our model comes from Jesus who often would tell people their sins are forgiven. Two striking passages tell of God’s mercy for His people: Mt. 6:14-24, which reads, “If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your father in Heaven will also forgive you.” Also Mt. 11:28 is a beautiful passage: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Br. Wayne said, “we give those we do not forgive the power to hurt us in our memories over and over again.” His illustrations were clear and illuminating to get the mysterious concept of forgiveness into an understandable frame of reference for his 348 listeners on the webinar. Br. Wayne said we carry around a bag of blessings and gifts and hurts. As we grow older, the bag becomes heavier and we should look in the bag once in a while to assess what is in there. As we age it becomes especially important to ask ourselves: “What do I want to bring to God?”
Br. Wayne mapped out factual ways to understand and to “do” forgiveness. First of all, forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling. Every day one must re-commit to the decision over a long period of time. He said that “forgiveness is finding the goodness in the other.” Having realistic expectations is also key, to know that the relationship may not be able to go back to what it was even if we have forgiven.
Scientific studies show that forgiveness is good for physical health. They show that those who hold on to resentment have more emotional and physical illnesses. Blood pressure and other typical symptoms of aging are lessened in those who seek to forgive. Furthermore, forgiveness is contagious; once you are forgiven it is much easier to pass that gift along to others.
So how do spiritual caregivers help those in their care to forgive? Br. Wayne calls the spirituality of aging “the spirituality of storytelling.” Healing can happen when we tell our stories and feel heard; therefore, listening is key. Having a trusting relationship with those to whom we confide our stories is also vital. We need to tell our story, but also not get stuck in that and be ready to move forward. Br. Wayne offered many other valuable how-to’s and insights that help make forgiveness understandable and within reach. One of his most memorable lines in that “forgiveness showcase the character of God.”
The webinar was presented on Tuesday, May 16th, 2017 and the complimentary recording can be watched here.