C.S. Lewis on Forgiveness

I’m pasting the whole of today’s C.S. Lewis Daily feed. Though it may seem long, Lewis wrote it with his masterful, economy of words. This is valuable because unforgiveness creeps into our lives so stealthily at times that we are wont to realize it has invaded our spirits. If you have no lingering anger issues, you are indeed blest, and rare. I hope it ministers to you as it did to me.

TO MARY WILLIS SHELBURNE, whose difficulties with her daughter and son-in-law continued: On the experience of forgiving; and on the tedium of dying.

6 July 1963

All one can say about Lorraine is that if she is really so brainwashed as you think, she is then no more morally responsible than a lunatic. I fully admit that as regards her husband you have been set as difficult a job in the forgiving line as can well be imagined.

Do you know, only a few weeks ago I realised suddenly that I at last had forgiven the cruel schoolmaster who so darkened my childhood. I’d been trying to do it for years: and like you, each time I thought I’d done it, I found, after a week or so it all had to be attempted over again. But this time I feel sure it is the real thing. And (like learning to swim or to ride a bicycle) the moment it does happen it seems so easy and you wonder why on earth you didn’t do it years ago. So the parable of the unjust judge comes true, and what has been vainly asked for years can suddenly be granted. I also get a quite new feeling about ‘If you forgive you will be forgiven.’ I don’t believe it is, as it sounds, a bargain. The forgiving and the being forgiven are really the very same thing. But one is safe as long as one keeps on trying.

How terribly long these days and hours are for you. Even I, who am in a bed of roses now compared with you, feel it a bit. I live in almost total solitude, never properly asleep by night (all loathsome dreams) and constantly falling asleep by day. I sometimes feel as if my mind were decaying. Yet, in another mood, how short our whole past life begins to seem!

It is a pouring wet summer here, and cold. I can hardly remember when we last saw the sun.

Well, we shall get out of it all sooner or later, for even the weariest river Winds somewhere safe to sea.

Let us pray much for one another.

I wish to reiterate Lewis’ final comment. We must pray for one another, even for those we dislike. One thing I know is, loving others isn’t always easy; some are so un-loveable that only God’s grace will open your heart to them. And the one prayer that God will always answer is to let his love flow through you. But if you pray for his love, you must also be willing to experience his pain when it is rejected. But it’s not a pain that injures. Rather, it heals your spirit like nothing else.


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