By: The Reverend Mother Barbara Martzall
I was talking with one of my monastic brothers the other day. He was sharing with me how hard it was to forgive someone who had hurt him. How actually this issue was hurting him spiritually.
Jesus told us that we should always forgive people. That is really a challenge though as we want to "tie" the act of hurting to the person who did the act. Confusing the person with the action makes it difficult to forgive. We want to punish the person for hurting us. We want them to hurt as much as we do. In the long run, the cycle of hurt continues, breeding more pain and more unforgiveness. We end up paying for not practicing forgiveness by losing our peace, our hope, and our joy in life. Katherine M. Piderman, Ph.D., staff chaplain at the Mayo Clinic, tells us that not forgiving leads us down a path of physical, emotional and even spiritual illness.
So what is forgiveness? It is a personal decision you make to let go of the feeling of resentment and need for revenge against the person. In doing that you remove yourself from the thoughts, feelings, and actions that will keep you tied to the hurt you felt from the other person. By forgiving, you are not ignoring the hurt but you are focusing back on the positive. You separate the person from the action: forgiving the person but not necessarily excusing the act.
If you do not forgive the person, you find yourself dwelling on the issue almost constantly. It keeps you in a constant period of "depression/agitation", which is not healthy for you. Do you really want your life in constant turmoil? I think not.
Forgiveness does not happen overnight. It takes time and it may take you having to recommit over and over. But when you have forgiven the person, you find peace and harmony once again in your life. Did you know that by forgiving a person, you take away their capability of controlling you through their actions and words? You regain control of your life. Forgiveness is for yourself and not the other person. Yes, we should when possible go to the person and tell them that we forgive them. That is the start of the release of control. It really is the first step in healing - physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Remember, not everyone is perfect. Not even you. We all make mistakes. We must learn to forgive the other person as well as seek forgiveness from those we have hurt. A life of love, peace, joy, kindness, compassion is really what you are called to live. You must do everything necessary to have that life as it is the life that God gave you the day you were born!
Let me end this article with an Orthodox prayer that helps you refocus your mind toward healing:
Lord Jesus Christ, in Your great mercy You prayed for the forgiveness of those who crucified You, and You taught us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. Lord, I pray that You forgive those who treat me unjustly and speak out against me, and that You bless them and guide them according to Your will. Take away any bitterness I may have in my heart against them. Lord, may Your forgiveness, goodness and love be revealed in all of us, to Your praise and glory. Amen. (Prayer for Our Enemies)