I was privileged to hear Fr. Nouwen once before his untimely death, Forgiveness is a topic I confront every New Year. Not only are there those whom I must forgive, if I do not want to carry a burden of anger through my life, but there are at least a couple of things for which I I could be forgiven. I am not sure it is beneficial for me to go seeking out people from 10, 20 or 30 years ago, though "12-step" programs do espouse this action. But if I state these things to God and ask for forgiveness, I am prepared if contacted by these people to make amends as I can and accept forgiveness if offered. (Not sure if this is making sense.) Receiving forgiveness is the hardest. But an important step towards this end is to be honest before God and accept responsibility for things I may have done. BEN From henrinouwen.org: Forgiveness, the Way to Freedom To forgive another person from the heart is an act of liberation. We set that person free from the negative bonds that exist between us. We say, "I no longer hold your offense against you" But there is more. We also free ourselves from the burden of being the "offended one." As long as we do not forgive those who have wounded us, we carry them with us or, worse, pull them as a heavy load. The great temptation is to cling in anger to our enemies and then define ourselves as being offended and wounded by them. Forgiveness, therefore, liberates not only the other but also ourselves. It is the way to the freedom of the children of God. AND Healing Our Hearts Through Forgiveness How can we forgive those who do not want to be forgiven? Our deepest desire is that the forgiveness we offer will be received. This mutuality between giving and receiving is what creates peace and harmony. But if our condition for giving forgiveness is that it will be received, we seldom will forgive! Forgiving the other is first and foremost an inner movement. It is an act that removes anger, bitterness, and the desire for revenge from our hearts and helps us to reclaim our human dignity. We cannot force those we want to forgive into accepting our forgiveness. They might not be able or willing do so. They may not even know or feel that they have wounded us. The only people we can really change are ourselves. Forgiving others is first and foremost healing our own hearts. AND Receiving Forgiveness There are two sides to forgiveness: giving and receiving. Although at first sight giving seems to be harder, it often appears that we are not able to offer forgiveness to others because we have not been able fully to receive it. Only as people who have accepted forgiveness can we find the inner freedom to give it. Why is receiving forgiveness so difficult? It is very hard to say, "Without your forgiveness I am still bound to what happened between us. Only you can set me free." That requires not only a confession that we have hurt somebody but also the humility to acknowledge our dependency on others. Only when we can receive forgiveness can we give it.