Lent, a propitious time to ask forgiveness and receive the sacrament of reconciliation

Lent, a propitious time to ask forgiveness and receive the sacrament of reconciliation

Lent, which begins on February 14, offers Catholics an auspicious opportunity to receive the sacrament of reconciliation. However, forgiveness is a process that is little encouraged in our society. It presupposes a demanding work of truth.

Who hasn’t come across an individual on public transport one morning, jostling everyone in his path while blurting out a perfunctory “excuse me”? As if to clear oneself of disrespectful behavior. Asking for forgiveness is another matter.

In December 2021, in an interview with TF1, Emmanuel Macron returned to his most controversial little phrases, including “people who succeed and people who are nothing”, pronounced in June 2017. “I think that in some of my comments , I hurt people, the President of the Republic then admitted. I think we can make things happen without hurting people. That’s what I won’t do again.”

Simple communication artifice or sincere mea culpa? In any case, the word “forgiveness” is not spoken. From public contrition to personal, deep, engaging approach, there is a world. An approach which, whatever the party – the offender or the offended – requires humility, patience and a shared desire to repair the damaged bond.

Qualities and dispositions that are little encouraged in an individualistic society where, according to psychoanalyst Jacques Arènes, “self-affirmation, the fact of not apologizing for existing are made absolutes. Today, the important thing is “expressiveness, the fact of saying what you think, without filter. Some of my psychology students send me inflammatory emails whose impact they do not understand. If they are angry, I advise them to let it settle their emotions, to take the time before responding on the spot.”

Jacques Arènes firmly believes in the virtues of forgiveness, even at work, “as long as the relationship between the two colleagues has a minimum of consistency. Otherwise, the approach can turn out to be naive or even risky.”

Get out of harassment

This culture of forgiveness can be taught from a very young age. Marina Rampi, senior education advisor (CPE) at Françoise-Dolto college in Marly-la-Ville (Val-d’Oise), works day by day to pacify relations between students. She trained in the Pikas method, of Swedish origin, which focuses on a group approach to the phenomenon of harassment. “We avoid blaming or lecturing suspected harassers or bullies.

One-on-one with them, adults conduct very short interviews (two or three minutes) where they emphasize the consequences of their actions until awareness arises and the bully can ask for forgiveness. to the student who is harassed or mocked.”

The CPE ensures that 100% of conflicts are resolved in this way in its establishment. Convinced of the importance of teaching students to ask for forgiveness, Marina Rampi notes, however, that this is becoming more and more difficult. “They tend to avoid responsibility by blaming others or by pretending that the whole class acts in this way. And then, there is the role of parents…”

Beyond serious cases of harassment, small everyday pardons, from childhood and adolescence, are part of what Jacques Arènes calls “relational hygiene” which must not be neglected, particularly at home. In adults, deep relational wounds take much longer to overcome.

Xavier, 52, a senior executive in the agri-food industry, married and father of three children, had a romantic relationship for a year and a half with a woman he met in a sports association. It could have remained a secret affair. But he quickly chose to talk to Chloé, his wife, because “it said something about the deterioration of our bond. And then, I was consumed by guilt and couldn’t keep it to myself.”

Upon hearing the news, Chloé sank into depression. Xavier was torn. “I was doubly loved but I realized the faults of this other woman, Karine. I suggested to Chloé that she make amends and save our relationship. She said to me: “Okay, but what if you make this choice, really make it, in a relationship of rediscovered fidelity.”

Some time later, I made the stupid mistake of exchanging text messages with Karine telling her that I was still in love with her. And she forwarded these texts to my wife. Against all expectations, Chloé forgave me a second time.” A pardon granted without Xavier having ever made the explicit request. “I find the expression “I beg your pardon” a little outdated, ceremonious”, explains Xavier. But it is this reconciliation that is underway today. “I realized the harm I caused him,” he admits, emphasizing how valuable the recourse to a psychotherapist was.

Confession, a dialogue

Shyness, embarrassment, shame, even fear. Recognizing one’s faults is not easy and many Catholics, even practicing ones, have long since deserted the confessional. Created in the first centuries to allow Christians who had abjured their faith to reintegrate the community, confession evolved significantly to become the “sacrament of reconciliation” from Vatican II (1962-1965).

It is above all a dialogue in truth with a priest who welcomes everyone where they are. It can be good to prepare for this with a time of personal prayer in order to identify the actions or words through which we have lacked love towards God, our neighbor and ourselves. Lent constitutes a liturgical time conducive to this approach.

A way to say “I love you”

Once again, the word forgiveness has difficulty emerging. And it is often after long years of introspection that we realize how unformalized forgiveness, whether it was not requested or not granted, can be the unconscious source of discomfort.

Stéphane, a 47-year-old teacher, understood after numerous psychoanalysis sessions that he was called to pacify his relationship with his father. A public works executive with busy days who, in his son’s younger years, came home late, was “not open to the world, unlike anything else.” “Above all, he did not educate me to trust, to take risks.

When leaving for cooperation in Cameroon, I heard myself say: “Remember, only trust yourself!” Whereas precisely, I was leaving to discover another culture, to make connections… Much later, in 2017, during my wedding, he was finally able to tell me in his speech: “Since you met Marie, you found a balance, I’m happy about it and I love you.” It was the first time I heard that from him.

A way of saying “I love you” to myself that is infinitely more touching than providing for my needs,” confides Stéphane, who no longer holds it against his father for his obsession with financial security and his propensity for mistrust. “That It was a very long road to stop being angry with him. Today I accepted the fact that I will not fundamentally change it. And I love him just the way he is.”

3 questions to Guilhem Causse, Jesuit, doctor of philosophy and author of the book “Forgiveness or the victim raised”

Is forgiveness a Christian specificity?
It is at the heart of what Christ announces, of his message and it is carried by the Scriptures since Genesis. Above all, God wishes to transmit his Love to us, of which forgiveness is the most accomplished form. His mercy extends and descends into our depths to confront suffering and evil. God in turn invites us to be merciful towards others, that is to say, to express great attention to them.

The Church today is telling the truth about abuse. But forgiving remains difficult…
Yes and, paradoxically, this is good news! Antoine Garapon, the president of the CRR, spoke out for a “moratorium on forgiveness” because, he specifies, forgiveness has been abused in the Church for too long to make it a necessary step. Victims were told they were required to forgive in the name of their faith. It meant: “Stop talking, you’re disturbing everyone!”

Today, we are moving away from this scandalous injunction to enter into the reality of forgiveness. It is more beautiful, but also more difficult because it is a relational reality which includes different actors whose awareness has its own temporality for each. A society rich in a great culture of forgiveness would be marked by significant attention towards each other. This is what we are invited to do.

Is it the opposite of forgetting?
Initially, forgetting can be a way of surviving the traumatic event. For abused people who use it, psychotherapy will make it possible to bring these buried facts to consciousness in a way that will not destroy them. The violent emotional charge which was linked to the aggression is then put at bay. And this is the condition for the person to be able to rebuild themselves.

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