Editor’s Note: This is a re-post from 2013 that fits in very well with the Year of Mercy.
It wasn’t so long ago that my motto was, “I will forgive, but I’ll never forget.” Sometime later I read, “To forgive, but not forget is just another way of saying, ‘I don’t forgive.’” Then I felt ashamed.
We forget that we have been forgiven by the one who has suffered the most from our hands, Jesus Christ. He not only suffered a torturous death some 2000 years ago, but He still suffers in His heart for us. I often need to remind myself of this.
Sometimes it is just a cruel word between family or friends, but often it is enough to start a senseless war of silence and resentment. No wonder St. Peter had a hard time with forgiving “seventy times seven times.”
Some offenses are easy to forgive, while others that are harmful, abusive, and long-lasting, are not. How do we even begin?
The sacraments and prayer are good places to start. A priest suggested I imagine the raised chalice between myself and the other person and I “see” Jesus healing that relationship. The longer I practice this, the more my angry and hurt feelings subside. Soon they are replaced with feelings of warmth and love.
I pray for the person. Jesus tells us, “pray for your enemies” and “pray for those who persecute you.” If you were looking for the Staples’ ‘easy’ button, you won’t find it here. It is anything but easy, but persevere!
At times I talk to Jesus in Adoration and ask him to heal the brokenness between us. I also ask Him to allow me to see the person the way He does. Maybe that person was envious, angry, or just offended without cause. However, I also ask the Lord to reveal to me my fault in the mix. I might have deepened the hurt by a curt word, action, or roll of the eyes. I go to confession to ask forgiveness for my part.
I also gently try to confront the person to talk things out. However, it is best to do this when you are peace with God. It is good to ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom. Sometimes I ask Him for the right words and the right tone of voice.
Surprisingly, it seems the hardest person to forgive is ourselves. God has forgiven us, now we must forgive ourselves. “My grace is sufficient for you,” Jesus says. It is by His grace that we can forgive others and ourselves.
Finally, I try to put things in perspective. The offender is God’s son or daughter as much as I am. They are still made in God’s image; therefore, I am obliged to forgive them.
Forgiveness sets us free from the bondage of resentment, anger, or hatred. It opens the door of our heart to love more fully. It replaces our hearts of stone, with one of flesh!
Copyright © 2013, Mary Mitchell