I’m not sure what I was up to when I was a kid but I recall having frequent cuts and scrapes that required my body to produce scabs. My mom told me not to pick at them to avoid scars but to my childhood mind, scars were irrelevant. More interesting were these scratchy patches on my arms and legs that indicated healing and were fun to mess with. The healing process slowed way down when the scab was picked off but there was satisfaction in doing it anyway.

What does this have to do with forgiveness? In today’s Gospel Jesus instructs us to forgive from our heart reminding us that forgiveness is a head thing as well as a heart thing. Announcing to myself that I forgive a person is only part of the process. The second part, forgiving from my heart means I have to stop picking at the scab from the wound. That’s less easy. 

Scabs serve a useful purpose in protecting what was damaged while it heals but they also are a reminder of the wound and are especially annoying when they itch or crack or otherwise cause us to notice they are there. When someone hurts us it’s part of our human nature to roll around in that hurt; replaying it in our mind, maybe even making it bigger than it was. There is satisfaction in staying in that place. There can be a sense of justified victimhood and gleeful self pity. “Look at me. Look what happened to me. I am hurt. See my scar. Look what I survived.”

When we dwell on the hurt, when we pick the emotional scab, we are slowing down the forgiveness and healing process and hurting ourselves in the end. It’s like opening a slow cooker. Each time you do, you add a half hour to the cooking time. Each time you pick that scab, you add healing time and you spend longer feeling bad. 

The answer lies with Jesus. When we show him our wound and tell him how the scab is bothering us, he helps us. I’m convinced that fully forgiving someone from the heart is only possible with the help of our Lord. That pesky scab is just too tempting. But if we give it to him and take the time needed for healing, it will happen and we will forgive as he asks us to. We will also avoid scars that prevent us from loving. We will forgive with and from a heart that is centered on Jesus. But  first we need to go to him. He is waiting. 

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