As Ash Wednesday approached, I spent time praying about what I should give up or give for Lent. It occurred to me that, given my lifelong struggle with my temper, I might work on giving up grudges.

I’m quick to remember those who’ve hurt me, and even quicker to remember those who’ve hurt the people I love. My desire to forgive is often at war with my desire to guard against further hurt. I can remember my father quoting, tongue only partly in cheek, John F. Kennedy’s admonition: “Forgive your enemies, but don’t forget their names.” His point was that it’s important to know, in business and in life, who you can trust.

But if we’re keeping track of hurts, nurturing our grudges, are we truly forgiving? Or are we keeping the initial wound alive and allowing it to infect our hearts with anger and pain? In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul says such behavior gives the devil a foothold in our lives.

And what about the people we have hurt? No human being goes through the imperfect struggles of life without hurting someone else, even though it might have been unintentional. Do we want those we’ve hurt brooding on our trespasses, or are we eager to repent sincerely and contritely and have them forgive us?

As we follow the footsteps of Jesus through Lent, we walk from the desert, filled with despair and temptation, to the empty tomb, shining with hope and the ultimate forgiveness. Jesus died to forgive us everything. And He doesn’t just wipe away our sins, He offers us the hope and the courage necessary to overcome our pain and doubt, the strength required to rebuild, and the joy in finding a new way.

Through Lent into Easter and beyond, let us seek to give forgiveness to each other and to ourselves, so we may draw nearer to Jesus and more closely follow His example.

“So watch yourselves. If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

Luke 17:3-4