In his 1947 essay, On forgiveness, written for the parish magazine of the Church of St.Mary Sawston, Cambridge, C.S.Lewis meditates on the Christian message of forgiveness that is more or less, a refrain of sundays. The simple, brief essay is literally a review of a portion of the holy scripture and a prayer, in essence.
Lewis admits how forgiveness is something that is very easy to preach, yet hard to practice. Like James Hillman, who believed that for our egos with hallmarks like pride and honor, forgiveness has to happen, Lewis believes that the ability to forgive has to be maintained through constant remembrance, for it is something that can be lost. But inspite of its onerous and elusive nature, Lewis reminds us of its inevitability encased in a barter system between man and God where one needs to forgive in order to be forgiven.
Lewis compares the experience of forgiving and being forgiven. He illustrates how, in both cases, we often try to get away, minimize or excuse ourselves from our transgressions by simply offering explanations. He points out how we mistakenly interchange the idea of forgiveness with the idea of excuses. Lewis writes:
To excuse, what can really produce good excuses is not Christian charity; it is only fairness. To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable, because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.On forgiveness, C.S.Lewis
Lewis instead remind us how futile it is to offer excuses when we seek forgiveness. He compares it to the absurdity of describing what’s alright with oneself instead of describing what’s wrong while visiting a doctor. In such a case the real problem that has to be forgiven is not uncovered. This is why it is important to own up to our mistakes instead of buying into our pride and playing games to defend ourselves. It facilitates forgiveness.
Once confrontation is done, forgiveness is an inevitability. It is a decision and a commitment to be made, not to excuse, the excusable, but to forgive the inexcusable. Lewis’s way of work phase recommend us to look at the transgressor beyond their guilt. This is not possible with a sense of victimhood. Thus work phase is at its heart, a way of liberating oneself.
In essence he is asking us to reverse the roles in forgiveness, whereby we will be capable to let go of our sense of victimhood as well as our pride so that we can own our mistakes. This is essentially the foundation for the courage to be vulnerable and that is fundamental for true love. This way we’ll be able to truly forgive, make our sufferings meaningful and be grateful for the experience.