This was not my initial reflection for this month. This reflection was inspired during my discussion with a counsellor who was reviewing a case involving two friends who were at daggers drawn. One of the parties who felt offended (and rightly so) stood his ground and said that he will not forgive the hurt caused him by his friend. In the long run, he insisted on what the friend must do for reconciliation.
Some of them were petty, ridiculous and childish. However, the friend agreed to do all that provided there is peace and togetherness. The offended party grudgingly accepted that and quibbled that even though he forgives he will not forget. My friend was able to secure a fragile peace between them and dismissed them, but it got me thinking.
I thought about how many people I have heard say something like, It is not easy for me to forgive; In fact I will never forgive him,” etc. One man once told me that the case between him and his wife of over 35 years will be judged in heaven. I thought about all the confessions the people with this mindset have embarked on. I thought about how they understood that part of the Lords Prayer which says, Forgive us our sin as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Mt. 6:12; Lk. 11:4).
I wondered if they understood that by saying those words, which as Catholics, we say at least three times a day, we are thereby asking God to forgive us with the same measure we forgive others. If we forgive conditionally, he should forgive us conditionally. If we don’t forgive at all, he should not even care about our confessions.
I pondered on the beatitudes of Matthew 5 and those words, Blessed are the Merciful for they shall obtain Mercy (Mt. 5:7). It is scary to learn that if we are not merciful, we may find it difficult to obtain mercy ourselves. In the New Testament, this lack of mercy and the eventual punishment of the unmerciful, is retained throughout the teachings of Jesus. The most graphic of all is the didactic story our Lord told in Mt. 18:23 35 (The story of the unforgiving Servant). His master forgave him a huge debt ten thousand talents but he threw his fellow servant into prison for just a hundred denarii.
The damning words in that story is in verse 35; So will my heavenly Father do with you unless each of you sincerely forgives his brother from his heart. That is a repetition of what he had already said in Chapter 6:15: If you do not forgive others, then your heavenly father will not forgive you either. Huh! How can we live with that? From the above we can see that forgiveness is key to our spiritual wellbeing.
Let me acknowledge that from our knowledge of psychology, some persons due to their psychological constitution may find it more difficult to let go of their grudges and hurt, however, we have not learnt that there is any temperament or group in enneagram that is equipped with the unfortunate gift never forgiving at all. Everybody can forgive and forgive sincerely even if it takes some people more time to do so.
Just two reasons why we must learn to forgive
1. If You, O Lord were to Keep record of our sins (Ps. 130:3). Think about what we would be if God kept record of our sins just our mortal sins not even to talk of our venial sins. We would have been placed in a special hell, worse than the one we hear about. We would have been wiped out both as individuals and as a planet. If God does not keep records of our sins and we are called to be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect (Mt. 5:48), then we must make effort to be close to the ideal.
Learn to say, If not because God forgives me… While that may not be the best Christian spirit to approach it, it will be the at least a good step towards the best. Remember always that only you can block yourself from receiving the mercy of God by having an unforgiving heart. Without forgiveness and reconciliation, we might not likely be acceptable to God and if we are not acceptable to God, our prayers may not be answered and we may not eventually make heaven.
2. Forgiveness is good for your health: According to Karen Lee Swartz, an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, John Hopkins Mood Disorder Center in Maryland, USA, Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions.
Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health. We should let go of negative feelings about others whether they apologize to us or not if we want to live long and healthy.
What is more! a 2011 study published in the Journal of Behavioural Medicine, stated that those who grant only conditional forgiveness based on when they receive apologies are likely to die earlier than those who forgive without conditions.
Conclusion: Forgiveness is key to our peace of mind. It is good for the forgiven as Psalm 32:1 say, Blessed be the one whose sin is forgiven, whose iniquity is wiped away. It is also quite beneficial to the forgiver for he lifts out his life a burden that could not only ruin his spiritual growth but also his physical wellbeing. We must learn to let go, which is another way of saying, forgive. Unless we forgive, we cannot not expect to be forgiven. The measure you measure out, is the measure you will receive.