When I was a mere lad, I learned about confession and that if I admitted my transgressions, then God would forgive me. I recall telling the priest about saying bad words, telling a few lies and having impure thoughts. Time does not seem to have cured much of that and why would I want it to? That first sin is considered to be an agressive management style, the second, a mainstay of political opinion and the third lets me know that I'm still looking at ground from the right side up.
However, there is something about this confession and forgiveness relationship that I either didn't understand as a child or perhaps it was taught too simply and not enough emphasis was put on the complete process. True healing of oneself comes through the forgiveness of others. To forgive others, we need to give up our anger, our fear and our resentment first, thus allowing us to take the focus off ourselves and look to a greater good. Letting go of the debilatating energy tied up in fear and anger that we harbour, allows a sense of freedom to enter into us and opens up room to feel joy. The step from there to forgiving someone else, seems a little easier and produces a vital link in the move towards being in a state of grace.
The other part of the story is seeking forgiveness for our own deeds and misdeeds which "confession" attempts to do. Because we cannot always communicate with the people we need forgiveness from, it is important to start with forgiving ourselves by acknowledging the error of our ways, making any changes necessary in our behaviours and thoughts and then setting a new standard for living. Being truthful with ourselves is the primary step in completing the circle of forgiving that moves us to a sense of wholeness.
One of the most powerful pictures in my mind of how this works, occurred a number of years ago when I watched a minister forgive the killer of his high school aged son and then a year or two later, another couple forgive their hockey playing son's teamate who was driving too fast, resulting in their boy's death. While I find it hard to imagine the courage that must take, it was clear that grace held a powerful part in creating the forgiveness that allowed them each to move forward.
I still like Louise Hay's affirmation in her book "You Can Heal Your Life," I forgive them for being ignorant - that has come in handy while driving the freeways lately and it saves freezing my finger while sticking it out the window. I'll check on that grace part again.