"Forgiveness" and those words related to it are often, in the "Christian" world, "throw aways." It is great to talk about forgiving and forgiveness – as long as it doesn't get too personal. "I forgive you" is often shortened to an "It is OK" kind of thing that really doesn't deal with the fact that "it" is NOT OK at all. How often are grudges carried on and on and on, or hurts not admitted, all the time being "kept" deep within?
It is also very easy to "forgive" but to harbor thoughts of revenge, or being justified in one's own sin. Again, we really don't want to get up close and personal – so forgiveness becomes a "too" of sorts to not look into one's self, only looking at the other guy.
Forgiveness, the act of forgiving is at the heart of being in Christ. In fact, not to forgive results in not being forgiven. That's not in some "tit for tat" kind of thinking – Christ our God is the lover of mankind all the time – how can anyone receive forgiveness if one is not willing to repent of the sin of not forgiving?
One of my Greek brothers points to the "Our Father" in the New Testament, pointing out that the text says, "Forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors." Indeed, the willingness to forgive, to let go of the past, to not let it rule our present, is born only of the Spirit, a part of metania, repentance, being transformed, turned around.
As we prepare to enter Great and Holy Lent, then, we, realizing the depth of our sin ("voluntary and involuntary, known and unknown) we literally confess and ask forgiveness of our brothers and sisters for even the things we might have been aware of as we end the forgiveness Vespers. Beginning with the priest and any other clergy all those present at Vespers, ask and give forgiveness to all present, one by one. That is to say, "forgiveness" moves from something we talk about to something that is practiced.
And it is strangely emotional to take the hand of another and ask forgiveness for any sin – to hear and give the word of forgiveness, and too embrace and share the kiss of peace. The depth of the sin in our lives is driven home as you realize that it includes the inadvertent snubs, the misspoken word, the action that may have caused unrealized hurt. The love that is ours in Christ is "driven home" on this day as, in that moment at least, we don't take one another for granted, but see that we are joined in Christ.
Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own sins and not to judge my brother, for thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.
(from the Prayer of St. Ephraim)