By FATHER KENNETH DOYLE
Q. Does it count as true forgiveness if you don't hate the person, if you pray for their well-being, yet purposely avoid them because you've seen enough to know that they won't change their ways (gossiping, etc.)?
A. Forgiveness is essential to the Christian way of life. We have only to think of St. Stephen, the first Christin martyr. Stoned outside the city of Jerusalem, he died praying for his executioners. He took his example, of course, from Jesus, who said from the cross, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do" (Lk 23:34).
Earlier, after giving us the Lord's Prayer, Jesus had said: "If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you" (Mt 6:14). So, a willingness to forgive those who have offended us is a Christian imperative.
At the same time, though, the church does not dictate whom you have to "hang out" with. In your own case, I believe that you have done everything you are obligated to do: You do not hate the one who offended you, and you continue to pray for his or her well-being.
To continue to fraternize with that person may not only be unpleasant for you; it could also "pull you down" into the world of gossiping. You are justified, I would think, in keeping your distance.
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Questions may be sent to Father Kenneth Doyle at firstname.lastname@example.org and 30 Columbia Circle Dr., Albany, New York 12203.