FORGIVENESS: Forgiving Others


Gleanings From Orthodox Christian Authors and the Holy Fathers

Assembled by Fr. Seraphim Holland
of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church

…he who would be reconciled to God and have peace with God must first be reconciled with his neighbor. (Saint Tikhon of Zadonsk)

…to forgive our enemies and to do good to them is true magnanimity – one of the greatest traits of likeness to God. (Lorenzo Scupoli)

Abba Poemen also said this about Abba Isidore that whenever he addressed the brothers in church he said only one thing, “Forgive your brother, so that you also may be forgiven.” (The Desert Fathers)

Abba Zeno said, “If a man wants God to hear his prayer quickly, then before he prays for anything else, even his own soul, when he stands and stretches out his hands towards God, he must pray with all his heart for his enemies. Through this action God will hear everything that he asks.” (The Desert Fathers)

Considering all these things then, and counting the recompense which is given in this case and remembering that to wipe away sins does not entail much labor and zeal, let us pardon those who have wronged us. For that which others scarcely accomplish, I mean the blotting out of their own sins by means of fasting and lamentations, and prayers, and sackcloth, and ashes, this it is possible for us easily to effect without sackcloth and ashes and fasting if only we blot out anger from our heart, and with sincerity forgive those who have wronged us. (St. John Chrysostom)

Do we forgive our neighbors their trespasses? God also forgives us in his mercy. Do we refuse to forgive? God, too, will refuse to forgive us. As we treat our neighbors, so also does God treat us. The forgiveness, then, of your sins or unforgiveness, and hence also your salvation or destruction, depend on you yourself, man. For without forgiveness of sins there is no salvation. You can see for yourself how terrible it is. (St. Philotheos of Sinai)

Do you not see, brethren, that we toil for nothing when we pray, if we have enmity against someone? And again the Lord says, “If you offer your gift at the altar, and there you remember that someone has something against you, leave your gift before the altar, and go first and be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Therefore, it is clear that if you do not do this first, all that you offer will be unacceptable, but if you do the Master”s bidding, then implore the Lord with boldness, saying, “Forgive me my debts, Master, as I have forgiven my brother, so fulfilling your commandment, I, weak though I am, have forgiven.” For the Lover of mankind will answer, “If you have forgiven, I too will forgive. If you have pardoned, I too will pardon your sins. For I have authority on Earth to forgive sins. Forgive and you will be forgiven.” (St. Ephrem the Syrian)

For an offense, whatever kind may have been given, one must not only not avenge oneself, but on the contrary must all the more forgive from the heart, even though it may resist this, and must incline the heart by conviction of the word of God: “If ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (St Seraphim of Sarov)

God is long-suffering and merciful to you: this you experience many times every day. Be long-suffering and merciful to your brethren, also fulfilling the words of the Apostle, who thus speaks of love before everything: “Love suffereth long, and is kind.” You desire that the Lord should rejoice you by his love, rejoice on your part the hearts of others by your tender love and kindness. (St. John of Kronstadt)

If a man insults me, kills my father, my mother, my brother, and then gouges out my eye, as a Christian it is my duty to forgive him. We who are pious Christians ought to love our enemies and forgive them. We ought to offer them food and drink, and entreat God for their souls. And then we should say: “My God, I beseech thee to forgive me, as I have forgiven my enemies.” (St. Kosmas Aitolos)

If the Emperor had laid down a law that all those who were enemies should be reconciled to one another, or have their heads cut off, should we not everyone make haste to a reconciliation with his neighbor? Yes, truly, I think so! What excuse then have we, in not ascribing the same honor to the Lord that we should do to those who are our fellow servants? For this reason we are commanded to say, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)

What can be more mild, what more merciful, than this precept! He has made you a judge of the pardon of your own offenses! If you forgive few things, he forgives you few! If you forgive many things, he forgives you many! If you pardon from the heart, and sincerely, God in like manner also pardons you.

Do not tell me, “I have besought him many times, I have entreated, I have supplicated, but I have not effected a reconciliation.” Never desist till you have reconciled him. For he said not, “Leave your gift, and go your way.” Although you may have made many entreaties, yet you must not desist until you have persuaded. God entreats us every day, and we do not hear; yet he does not cease entreating. And do not then disdain to entreat your fellow-servant. How is it then possible for you ever to be saved? In proportion as the good work is accomplished with greater difficulty, and the reconciliation is one of much labor, so much the greater will be the judgment on him, and so much the brighter will be the crowns of victory for your forbearance. (St. John Chrysostom)

If you want to cure your soul, you need four things. The first is to forgive your enemies. The second is to confess thoroughly. The third is to blame yourself. The fourth is to resolve to sin no more. If we wish to be saved, we must always blame ourselves and not attribute our wrong acts to others. And God, who is most compassionate, will forgive us. (St. Kosmas Aitolos)

If, in the case of one human being who has done wrong to another, God in his grace has commanded that we should be forgiving to the offender seventy times seven, how much more will God forgive the person who offers up supplication for his sins? (John the Solitary)

Imagine the vanity of thinking that your enemy can do you more damage than your enmity. (St. Augustine)

It is characteristic of generous, valiant souls not to despair in the midst of perils; and it is the work of one who is grateful not only to give thanks to the Lord in good fortune, but to show the same thankfulness in misfortunes as well. Nothing can embitter the virtuous soul, but everything that he suffers he considers to be gain for himself. And what can be better than to bear one”s lot generously and without complaint? There is nothing more generous than to forget the offenses made against one. (Abbot Nazarius)

Let us love one another, and we shall be loved by God. Let us be long-­suffering toward one another, and he will be long-suffering toward our sins. Let us not render evil for evil, and he will not render to us according to our sins. We shall find remission of our transgressions in forgiving our brethren; for God”s mercy toward us is concealed in our mercifulness toward our neighbor. This is also why the Lord said: Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. And if ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. After this, our salvation is already in our power. (St. Maximus the Confessor)

Rightly did the Lord say, “My burden is light.” For what sort of weight is it, what sort of toil is it to forgive one’s brother his offences, which are light and of no importance, and to be pardoned for one’s own, and immediately justified?

He did not say, “Bring me money, or calves, or goats, or fasting, or vigils,” so that you could say, “I have none, I cannot,” but he ordered you to bring what is light and easy and immediate, saying, “Pardon your brother his offences, and I will pardon yours. You pardon small faults, a few halfpennies, or three pennies, while I give you the ten thousand talents. You only pardon without giving anything, I nevertheless both grant you pardon and give you healing and the Kingdom.  And I accept your gift, when you are reconciled to the one who is your enemy, when you have enmity against no one, when the sun does not go down on your anger.

When you have peace and love for all, then your prayer is acceptable, and your offering well-pleasing, and your house blessed and you blessed. But if you are not reconciled with your brother, how can you seek pardon from me? You trample on my words, and do you demand pardon? I, your Master, demand, and you pay no attention, and do you, a slave, dare to offer me prayer, or sacrifice, or first fruits, while you have enmity against someone? Just as you turn your face from your brother, so I too turn my eyes from your gift and your prayer.” (St. Ephrem the Syrian)

Some, for the sake of forgiveness, give themselves up to labor and struggles, but a man who is forgetful of wrongs excels them. If you forgive quickly, then you will be generously forgiven. (St. John Climacus)

The brothers said, “What kind of prayer is that which is not acceptable before God?” The old man said, “The prayer for the destruction of enemies. When we ask that evil things may come upon those who do harm to us, and for bodily health, and abundance of possessions, and fertility in respect of children, these requests are not acceptable before God. If God beareth with us, who are sinners and who offend Him, how much more is it right that we should bear each with the other? It is, then, not meet that we should ask for the things which concern the body, for the wisdom of God provideth everything necessary.” (The Paradise of the Holy Fathers)

There is no prayer so quickly heard as the prayer whereby a man asks to be reconciled with those who are wroth with him. For when he charges himself with the offence, this prayer is immediately answered. (St. Isaac the Syrian)

This is the ladder by which Christians ascend toward perfection, that is toward love of enemies. What, then, Christian? When you are commanded to love your enemies, and to do good to those that hate you – commanded by him who created you and redeemed the lost by his blood and death, and who holds your death and life in his hand – will you consent and forgive him who offended you? If an Earthly king had commanded you not only to forgive your neighbor his offense, but also to serve him, or else be put to death, which had you better choose? To die or to forgive and serve your neighbor? I hope that you would rather wish to forgive and serve your neighbor than to die. The Heavenly King commands you not only to forgive him that offended you, but also to love your enemies, and to do good to those that hate you. Otherwise eternal death will follow those that do not hear the commandment of the Heavenly King, “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in Heaven.” (St. Tikhon of Zadonsk)


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