“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is an attribute of the strong.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Truth be told, this is one very difficult road to take. No matter how you look at it, forgiveness is hard. I say this in actuality.
At the time I was undergoing the changes in my life that has led me to the awesome me I am now, one very difficult challenge I had was facing my past. I have always been the type to sweep things under the carpet. I wasn’t particularly a fan of confrontation and I took solace in “always letting sleeping dogs lie”. I figured it was easier to let issues slide rather than confront them.
Confronting my past was no child’s play. There were so many hurts, pains, regrets, anger, dislikes, directed towards so many people. I felt hurt. I wanted to scream and shout as I felt the pains and anger anew. Been completely honest with myself, I left no stone unturned and faced the bitter truth. I was ANGRRYYYYYYYYYYYY. I was furious. What amazed me though was the fact that I felt this much anger in me. I hate keeping grudges. I always told myself “I am just avoiding the situation” but I guess I was been delusional.
I did notice after years gone by, that each time I remembered incidents that I didn’t properly sort out or the people who had offended me in time past, my heart skipped a million beats in seconds and I begin to feel fresh anger. “I thought I had forgiven them”, I would chide myself. “Why then do thoughts of the incident or the people still bother me? I struggled deep within me.
The answer came to me at Mass one fine Sunday morning when the priest talked about forgiveness. From all he said, I gathered that when you truly forgive, each time you think of the incidents or people who did you wrong, your mind is always at peace but when you do not truly forgive and you remember the hurt and pains of the past, your heart reacts. There is this tugging on your conscience as if to say, you have not truly forgiven this person.
And then it dawned on me….. Unknowningly, I had been piling all the hurts, pains and anger in my subconscious ; I had been harboring ill-thoughts towards all those who had wronged or hurt me and feigning smiles in the process. This was me deluding myself into thinking I had forgiven others when in actual fact, I was avoiding confrontations with the situation.
The priest then said, “True forgiveness requires God’s grace. So we must seek divine help to truly forgive others”.
I could very much relate with this and I prayed to God for forgiveness and to help me to forgive myself, forgive those who have hurt me, help those whom I have hurt to forgive me and to heal my past. Oh sure, it wasn’t easy but I kept praying for the grace to forgive myself and my past. I prayed for my heart to be healed and to be able to let go of the past without dragging any baggage into my new life.
And my prayer was answered!!!
I couldn’t very well go to every one in my past to thrash out issues of many years ago. Everyone had “moved on” and some too may not remember. So I prayed to God for healing. Luckily I came across a few and made amends with them. We talked and thrashed out the issues with both sides apologizing for their wrongs.
I still pray for the spirit of forgiveness because sometimes, I still feel a little tug when I think of some issues and some people but hey, it is a gradual process and should I come across them in future, I hope and pray to be able to make amends with them.
The important lesson I learnt from total submission to God and allowing forgiveness into my heart is that, I was no longer afraid. Gradually, I was able to face my demons and fought them bravely. I was able to speak freely with those whom I once held in contempt. I was able to break the chains of my past attached to me. I just let it all go and once I did that, I became freer. I was able to move on with life swiftly and beautifully.
It seemed all the while I was still holding the anger in, all these people had power over me. Like I said earlier, Whenever thoughts of them crossed my mind, my heart would skip beats and I would again remember the hurt and be in pain again. But letting it go, I could easily breathe. I experienced so much freedom and it seemed a heavy weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
Unforgiveness is so much stress, I tell you. You just keep going round in circles instead of a straight path which forgiveness offers and this made me realize that Forgiveness is man’s deepest need and highest achievement.
Sweetie, more often than not, we seem to get hurt by friends, loved ones or even complete strangers. At times, we feel what they have done is unpardonable, unforgivable and we are so angry with them that we can’t even stand their sight or presence. We just refuse to forgive them because we feel so wounded.
Forgiveness is difficult and painful because sometimes, it just doesn’t seem fair. “How can I forgive him after he has caused me so much pain?” “How can I just let her off the hook so easily after the so much hurt she has caused? I want to see her hurt too. I want revenge.” “He killed my fiancee. He deserves to die”.
Again, I say forgiveness is difficult and it takes the grace of God to be able to truly forgive.
In situations when we come face to face with the murderer of our children, spouse or a dear friend; in situations when we come face to face with the person who told a blatant lie against us and made us spend 15 years in jail; in situations when we come face to face with the rapist that hurt us, stole our virginity and innocence, got us pregnant and made us drop out of school; in situations when we come face to face with terrorists who have caused the loss of thousands of lives (even without friends and family inclusive), ………….we can’t just help but wish that these persons go through slow agonizing deaths; we want them to have a taste of their own pudding; we want them to experience what they put us through. We can’t help but wish them the same misfortune that has befallen us because of them.
“How on earth can I ever forgive such a person?”- This is one common question we ask ourselves. “How can I forgive that man who raped my daughter to death?” “How can I forgive that woman who stole my two month old baby and caused me grief all my life?” “How can I forgive the man who murdered my child?” “How can I forgive that woman who broke my home?” So many questions like these keeps going through our minds and we can’t just find the possibility of ever forgiving that person.
In truth, forgiveness is easier said than done until we are in a position to forgive. How did Jesus do it? The very same people he lived with in peace and love; healing their sick, raising their dead, feeding their hungry…….. those same people gave Him up to be crucified.
How wicked, we might say. All He ever did was love. He lived love, spoke love, did all things in love. Yet he was crucified as innocent as He was; not for any crime He committed but for our transgressions and we crucify him yet all over again with our sin of unforgiveness.
Even in death, He loved us still with His pierced heart gushing out an ocean of mercy for us all. How could he have forgiven us when he did nothing wrong but instead took our place on that cross? He is God, we may say. Yes! But He was also man, flesh and blood as we are. He lived and walked the face of this earth and is still with and among us today.
We must realize that whenever we forgive, amongst the so many blessings we receive, we lift a heavy burden off our shoulders; we open our hearts to God’s many graces; we welcome into our hearts that overflowing peace and mercy of God.
When we forgive others, we get to them a lot more than we know. Revenge gives them room to justify their actions but forgiveness leaves them stunned and speechless and they wonder, “Who are you?” With forgiveness, you have shown you do not operate on same level with them. Your thought process and Lifestyle is on a higher realm.
Forgiveness is indeed difficult but it is the only way through which true healing and peace comes.
Jesus taught us to forgive and to love one another unconditionally just as He forgives and loves us unconditionally. In the Lord’s Prayer, He taught us to say:
“And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. (Matt 6:12).
On the cross, He prayed for us all saying:
“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34)
He died for us to redeem and reconcile us back to God the father. If we want to be friends with God, then we have to be able to forgive all who hurt and offend us. When we refuse to forgive, we shut out God’s own forgiveness from us. That is what Jesus meant in the Lord’s Prayer.
Even when we are unfaithful to God, He remains ever faithful and so much wants us to experience His love, to be close to Him, to be friends with Him. But all these opportunities won’t come to us when we don’t forgive.
It’s not as though when we refuse to forgive, God will say “Okay! Since you refuse to forgive, I refuse to forgive you also.” I don’t think it happens that way. I feel when we don’t forgive, we create a barrier between ourselves and God’s mercy. He so much wants the barrier to be removed but He is helpless as we are the only ones that can remove the barrier through that simple act of forgiveness.
Come to think of it, the bible has made us to understand that “with God, all things are possible” but there is one thing I think God refuses to interfere with – the free will of man.
God created us with the freedom to make our own choices, to choose that which is good or evil. He doesn’t influence our decisions. He is there to guide us and show us the right path but it is our choice to follow Him or not. Most times, He so much wants to come close to us, to tell us how much He loves us but sometimes His hands are tied as we put a barrier between ourselves and Him.
That is why Jesus said “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone opens and lets me in, I will go in to stay”. He needs our permission for His involvement in our lives.
What’s our take going to be? Crucify Him all over again with a hardened heart even as He still lives among us in love?
We can forgive no matter how difficult the situation may be. We can forgive. The truth is no matter the gravity of any hurt, harm or pain caused us by others, none can ever be compared to the agony and death of Jesus who died not for any sin or crime of His but because of us.
All we require is to ask God for His grace because it is only through the grace afforded us from His throne of mercy can we whole heartedly forgive all who hurt us and pray for their conversion.
Let us not forget that we have in more ways than one hurt other people intentionally or not. Hence we are also in need of forgiveness. Refusing to forgive those who hurt us will be a case of looking at the speck in our brother’s eyes and not seeing the plank in our own eyes as Jesus said in Matthew 7:3-5.
I say this, first forgive and then be forgiven. Asking or wanting to be forgiven while we refuse to forgive others is like the story of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:23.
One of my favorite saints is St Rita of Cascia. She is an epitome of strength, grace and forgiveness. Her story is a must read for everyone.
St Rita must have struggled with forgiveness too as her husband was murdered and her two sons taken away from her. And to think she knew the murderers of her husband, must have made it more difficult but she forgave them and brought reconciliation to all involved with the help of God.
When we ask for God’s grace to forgive, He definitely will give us. We are sometimes angry with God when we find ourselves in daring situations as those sited above. We can’t help but wonder: “Where was God when my daughter was raped and screaming for help till she died?’’ “Where was God when that murderer shot my son and left him to bleed to death?”
Where is God when bad things happen?
These and many other questions comes to our minds and sometimes makes us wonder if God is really just seated on His throne and watch as untold pain and agony befalls His children.
Where is God when bad things happen?
I think the mother of St Maria Goretti must have wondered about this too – “Where was God when Antonio stabbed my little Maria 14 times?” but little Maria was afforded grace from the throne of mercy. She had opened her heart to God and saved her innocence choosing rather to die than give up her chastity and she forgave her murderer. I believe her ability to forgive Antonio, the man who murdered her, strengthened her family to do same and this led to Antonio’s conversion.
Let’s not forget that for everything that happens, God has a reason and He permits some “bad” things so His name can be glorified in all things. We can see this in the story of Job in the bible. Why did He permit the death of Martyrs? Why did He do nothing when those who believed in Him were haunted down and killed because of their faith in Him? Why did He permit that some of the early Christians die in a horrible way – St Peter was crucified upside down, St Maria Goretti was stabbed 14 times; St Joan of Arc was burned at the stake? Why did He permit the death of His own son?
If Jesus hadn’t come to die for us, we’ll have nothing like salvation today. We will not be opportune to be called sons and daughters of God. But out of His love for us, He gave up His only son to die for us.
God does have a reason for everything. We may not see it. We may not understand it. We may not even be able to fathom it. All of that is not for us to do. What we are meant to do is TRUST GOD. BELIEVE GOD. HAVE FAITH IN HIM because at the end, all is to the glory of His name and for the great and beautiful life He has for us. As humans, we are short-sighted. He is the God with the all-seeing eye. He knows the end from the beginning. Let us TRUST HIM.
Every moment in life; every situation in life means more than the eyes can see.
The best we can do is submit ourselves to Him and let His will be done. He told us to forgive 70×7 times. He doesn’t expect us to begin to count the number of times we forgive until it’s equal to 70×7. What He simply means is that we should always forgive no matter how many times, no matter how difficult.
He forgives us each day and every minute. We often sin against Him knowingly or not (not knowing when we sin is called sin of omission) with our thoughts, words, and actions. Yet He still forgives us always. The psalmist says in psalm 130:3-4:
“If you, O Lord should mark our guilt, Lord who would survive? But with you is found forgiveness, for this, we revere you.”
The psalmist is entirely right for if the Lord should really mark our every sin, I guess the world would be as good as wiped out.
We have to learn to always forgive for if we don’t, we are going to lose in more ways than one:
- We would lose God’s friendship and love.
- Our prayers won’t be answered because a barrier has been created by the unforgiving spirit in us.
- We will hurt more and won’t be at peace.
- The wound will always be fresh.
- We’ll have a burden on our shoulders…….
To mention but a few. But if we forgive, we not only earn the friendship of God, but also His love and peace. Through forgiveness, the channel of His grace is opened to us. If for nothing else, let’s forgive for the sake of Jesus.
As Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta sums the call to love beautifully in a pack of 3 words, – “All for Jesus”.
St Faustina Kowalska said “He who knows how to forgive prepares for himself many graces from God. As often as I look upon the Cross, so often will I forgive with all my heart”.
Through forgiveness, I have discovered that:
- Everything we do today should be for Jesus. Every word we speak and every expression on our faces should be for Jesus. Every thought we entertain should be pleasing to Him. If we do this, we are obeying all His commandments and we will be ready to meet Him face to face when He comes.
- If you find it difficult and hard to forgive, sincerely ask for God’s help and grace to forgive. Be opened to it and then see and experience the peace that would flood your soul.
- When we forgive, we lift a heavy burden off our shoulders and open our hearts to the peace and mercy of Christ which the world cannot give.
- Forgiveness draws us nearer to God and makes us hear more clearly His sweet gentle voice in our hearts which continues to tell us how much He loves and cares for us.
- Forgiveness brings us closer to those who have hurt us and helps them to experience the forgiveness and love of Jesus through us who forgives them.
- Through forgiveness, we win more souls for Jesus.
- When we forgive, we see and view life from a different perspective, not in the way the world sees things but as God sees things.
- There is no love without forgiveness neither is there forgiveness without love. They go hand in hand. If we love, then we have to forgive and if we forgive, it is because we love.
- Forgiveness makes us see and know God as He really is. We are better able to understand His love and to love Him.
Look at this story someone sent to me a long time ago.
The Law of the Garbage Truck
One day I hopped in a taxi and we took off for the airport. We were driving in the right lane when suddenly a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, skidded, and missed the other car by just inches!
The driver of the other car whipped his head around and started yelling at us. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. I mean, he was really friendly. So, I asked, “Why did you just do that? This guy almost ruined your car and sent us to the hospital!”
This is when my taxi driver taught me what I now call, “The Law of the Garbage Truck.” He explained that many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and sometimes they’ll dump it on you.
Don’t take it personally. Just smile, wave, and wish them well, say a prayer for them and move on. Don’t take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the streets. The bottom line is that successful people do not let garbage trucks take over their day.
Life’s too short to wake up in the morning with regrets, so . . . love the people who treat you right. Forgive the ones who don’t. We’re not always responsible for everything that happens to us, but we are responsible for how we react to what happens. Life is ten percent what you make it and ninety percent how you take it!
And that is just about it.
So tell me, how has forgiveness helped you attain more joy, better peace and happiness? Kindly share your experiences on forgiveness and inspire others with your story.