Harboring hate and hurt is like consuming a steady dose of poison. Both are corrosive and their wear and tear on our bodies and our spirits is tremendous. Their existence within us can cause restlessness and unease. At times, harboring hate and hurt blocks us from giving love and also receiving love. Other times, we build a wall around our hearts and decide that the best way to stay safe is to let no one get too close.
Another person harboring hate or hurt from one of our choices is just as hard and just as painful. Knowing that despite your apology and your offer to make amends the other person is not ready to offer forgiveness to you is a heavy burden to carry. The loss of the relationship or the brokenness within the relationship becomes a deep wound, and it, too, festers the way harboring hate and hurt does causing the pain to worsen and eat away at our insides.
Un-Forgiveness: Choosing and Receiving
I am not proud to say it, but I have been on the end of not choosing to forgive and on the receiving end of un-forgiveness.
My choice of not forgiving caused many restless nights of sleep and a slow waning of my spirit. While at times I fooled myself into believing I liked the power I had to not forgive and keep the rift in our relationship alive, the weight of the loss of the relationship became too much to bear. It made me cranky, tired, and less loving towards others. I was by no means the only one hurt by my choice to not forgive.
The person seeking my forgiveness, too, felt the weight of the loss and brokenness of our relationship. My friend became defensive, timid to bring his authentic self into our relationship, and overtime, he just began to withdraw completely from our relationship. My choice of not forgiving him impacted the way he was in relationship with not only me, but others, and it did nothing to help him love and receive love.
In this instance, I withheld an opportunity to show mercy.
On the other hand, I know what its like to have messed up completely in a relationship and practically beg for forgiveness time and time again. Instead of being forgiven, I am offered a litany of my wrongs with a reminder of the pain I caused. This un-forgiveness, especially when I know I am in the wrong, makes me feel helpless and hopeless like nothing I do will ever make things better. It is hard to not be offered the gift of mercy.
We Have the Ability to Forgive Within Us:
On our bathroom wall hangs a quote that Chris and I stare at every day while we get dressed. It says, “I go on choosing you”.
Forgiveness, as taught to us by Jesus, has this same sentiment of choice. We are called to forgive not once, not 7 times, but 7 x 70 times (Mt 18:22) From my own experience of forgiving others, I know that is not a one shot, and I am done and all hate and hurt are gone from within my heart instantly. I have to keep choosing to forgive. And trust me, sometimes the choice is really hard to make.
Thankfully, we are not alone in choosing to do this or acting to forgive. We forgive others because God first forgives us. We can show mercy to others because of the mercy God gives us constantly. Mercy is about God’s desire to relieve suffering and opening another way to what may seem impossible to us. God transforms our heart through prayer and through being in relationship with God. Being loved by God softens our hearts, and allows us to not only love in places we never thought we could, but FORGIVE in places we never thought we could.
When we forgive others, we show mercy both to the person who hurt us, and we show mercy to ourselves. We offer new life within each of us and increase our capacity to receive love from God, to return love to God, to give to others, and to receive love from others. Choosing to forgive helps free another person from feeling bound up or tied up due to a choice they made. Ultimately, we relieve another’s suffering and often, our own as well.
What Can Help Us Forgive ?
- Admitting our own wrongs. Knowing our own mistakes builds humility within us and softens our hearts towards the mistakes of others.
- Asking for forgiveness for our wrongs. Through prayer, we can ask God to forgive us. We can also go directly to the person we hurt and forgive them. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a beautiful Sacrament of mercy that offers us the chance to name our sins before God, ask for God’s forgiveness, and receive God’s gift of mercy in forgiving us.
- Seek God’s help in transforming our hearts. God is always looking for a crack to allow His mercy to come into our hearts. Sometimes, it starts with simply naming the desire to forgive another person and asking for God’s help to do the rest.
- Listen to inspiring stories of forgiveness. Talk to others or read stories of courageous people who have forgiven others despite the pain they caused.