I'm in the midst of reading a GREAT book on forgiveness: Set Free: The Authentic Catholic Woman's Guide to Forgiveness by Genevieve Kineke. I'm planning to write a proper book review when I finish, but I couldn't wait to share some of the wisdom.
Are you waiting for an apology from someone who has hurt you? Here's why Kineke says that is a bad idea:
"...if your forgiveness hinges on the other's contrition, then he or she is exercising a control over you that is entirely unwarranted. If you put forgiveness in the hands of the wrongdoer then you hand your eternal destiny to a finite creature..."(page 26)
Yikes! I had never thought about waiting for an apology in that way, but it makes perfect sense. Christ commanded forgiveness, but if I'm harboring a resentment and waiting for an apology, then that is doing harm to my soul.
Another pearl of wisdom that got me was about the act of forgiving. "Forgiveness is a decision, not a feeling." (page 31). I have been in the position when I have wanted to forgive someone - made the decision to put the hurt behind me - but found that I got upset again if I was reminded of the incident. I thought that meant I hadn't really forgiven the hurt and had to wait until it no longer bothered me. Not so! Her advice is to forgive and if you get upset about the incident in the future, then make another act of forgiveness. It makes so much sense since forgiving can be a long and hard process.
Is it necessary to say 'I forgive you' to the person who has wronged you? Depending on the hurt and who did it, it may not be necessary. In some cases, confronting the person can bring back painful memories or perhaps the person has died. So long as I can pray for that person and the idea of meeting them in heaven doesn't fill me with dread or anger, then the forgiveness is real.
These are just a few of the nuggets I've gotten from this book and I'm barely a quarter of the way through. I highly recommend this book for anyone.