C.S. Lewis (and I) on Forgiveness

“To excuse what can really produce good excuses is not Christian charity; it is only fairness. To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”

C.S. Lewis, “On Forgiveness”

Usually, these posts will start out with some passage of Scripture, but this one (obviously) is a little different.

I have been reading a good bit of C.S. Lewis here lately, and this quote stood out to me and really caused me to delve down into the depths of this thing I have been calling forgiveness.

In his essay, “On Forgiveness,” Lewis points out something that I really had never thought about – the difference between excusing someone versus truly forgiving them.

Lewis’s words immediately brought to light a concept that had cemented itself in my thinking about forgiving others, and that concept centers around the idea of “time heals all wounds.” When it comes to forgiving someone else, there tends to be this thought in me that says, “I can’t forgive them right now, but over time, I’m sure I’ll find it in me to forgive them in the future.”

After reading Lewis’s essay, I realized that, for me, this really means: “When all of the emotion simmers down and I’m not as angry, I’ll be able to look past it.”

“Look past it.” In other words, excuse it.

That, however, is not what forgiveness is. To forgive someone means doing so even though it is not deserved. So, even when I still feel raw – even though it still hurts – I am supposed to forgive.

This is obviously very difficult, but there is also a bit of comfort in the idea. Whenever you simply excuse someone, you are more or less lying to yourself that what was done “was not that big of a deal after all.” Forgiveness on the other hand holds nothing back. It says that what was done against you was wrong, but I will still, by grace, find the ability from somewhere inside to forgive.

In my life, I have done a lot of excusing and not a whole lot of forgiving.

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