Henri Nouwen on Forgiveness

I have often said, “I forgive you,” but even as I said these words my heart remained angry and resentful. I still wanted to hear the story that tells me that I was right after all; I still wanted to hear apologies and excuses; I still wanted the satisfaction of receiving some praise in return – if only the praise for being so forgiving!

     But God’s forgiveness is unconditional; it comes from a heart that does not demand anything for itself, a heart that is completely empty of self-seeking. It is this divine forgiveness that I have to practice in my daily life. It calls me to keep stepping over all my arguments that say forgiveness is unwise, unhealthy, and impractical. It challenges me to step over all my needs for gratitude and compliments. Finally, it demands of me that I step over that wounded part of my heart that feels hurt and wronged and that wants to stay in control and put a few conditions between me and the one whom I am asked to forgive.

Henri Nouwen, Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming, pp. 129-130.

Carrying on the theme of forgiveness from a previous talk posted here, this quote captures for me the internal wrestling that the prospect of forgiving precipitates in me. Father, would you help me practice a divine forgiveness, completely empty of self-seeking, in my own life. Amen.

3 thoughts on “Henri Nouwen on Forgiveness

  1. Hi Sam,Wondering if you’ve had a chance to read the latest Nouwen release, “Home Tonight: Further Reflections on the Parable of the Prodigal Son”.
    We would be interested in your feedback on this new book.


  2. Hi Sam,Yes, he does reference the painting in “Home Tonight” but the focus is more on his personal reflections on the parable. Hope you’ll take a look at it.


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