To forgive someone who has hurt or offended us is never easy, sometimes very difficult. Nevertheless, to forgive is to be in a position of strength, we are the injured one, we are doing the giving, we are in control, it makes us feel good & we have something to gain from it. To ask for forgiveness can be a lot harder. The Our Father contains what St Augustine called “the terrifying petition”; asking God to forgive us in the same way that we forgive others.
According to Jewish law, sins committed against God can be absolved by sincere repentance, but for those committed against fellow humans, you must first seek the forgiveness of those whom we have wronged. This ,in order to be in a position to invoke divine mercy.
There is a story of an elderly rabbi boarding a train in Poland, in his compartment where three men playing cards they needed a fourth player & asked him. The rabbi politely refused saying that he had been busy all day & needed to catch up on his prayers, anyway he didn’t play cards, They tried to persuade him, he refused, they became hostile & abusive, throwing him out to stand in the corridor for the rest of the journey. On arrival, all departed the train & the rabbi was greeted by a large crowd. On seeing this one of the men enquired who he was & was told that he was the most revered rabbi in Poland.
On hearing this, the man regretted what he’d done, he went up to the rabbi & asked for forgiveness, the rabbi refused. When challenged the rabbi replied, “I cannot forgive him, he didn’t offend me, the chief rabbi, he offended a common man. Let him go to him and ask for forgiveness”
The man only asked for forgiveness because he had offended a famous person. Is this how we ask for forgiveness from God? Maybe God thinks the same way as the rabbi and wonders why we ask him for forgiveness for offending a person, instead of going to the person themselves, telling them we are sorry & asking for forgiveness from them. By doing that we open the door and God’s forgiveness flows in.