Recently, two people in my life hurt me very badly. Not the kind of hurt you can just brush away and move on, but the kind that has you replaying conversations in your head when you should be sleeping and shouting at the bathroom mirror in imaginary retaliation. My anger and hurt may have been justified, but they were eating my soul alive.
Reading Sacred Scripture seemed to contradict everything I was feeling. “Turn the other cheek?” (Matt. 5:39, Luke 6:29) I questioned. “Forgive seventy times seven times?”(Matt. 18:22) How could I possibly do that?!
After much prayer and some wonderful spiritual guidance, I have learned to forgive those two people and to move on. The steps to forgiveness are not always as apparent to us or to our students.
1. Recognize that forgiveness (like love) is not a feeling, but a choice you make. When I struggled with my own hurt feelings, I didn’t think I could move beyond them. When I realized that I could choose to forgive, regardless of what I was feeling, I was freed.
2. Forgiveness does not have to involve putting yourself in harm’s way. If a person or situation has become toxic or dangerous for you, it is not essential to express forgiveness to them in person or even let them know that you have forgiven them. Unfortunately, people who are not healthy often do not see their own part in the pain they have caused. In fact, they more often than not, believe themselves to be the victim. For example: An abused woman is not mandated to confront her abuser in order to forgive him. That could be dangerous.
3. Confession heals the soul. Whatever the circumstances of our pain, a good confession can help in many ways. We can examine if we had any part in the injury, get spiritual guidance on how to handle it, and receive the grace of the sacrament which, in itself, is healing.
4. Use the pain as an opportunity to pray and for grace. Over the years I have learned a technique that has helped me when someone has hurt or upset me. I visualize giving the Lord my pain in a basket. I ask Him to bring it to Himself and turn it into grace, then, pour it over the person who has hurt me. When we are injured, it is so easy to feel helpless in the situation. This mediation
Forgiveness does not mean that we forget the wrong completely. We should protect ourselves and our hearts (in certain situations), but it does mean that we can move past the hurt and on to some sort of reconciliation. Either directly, or indirectly, we can make a choice to forgive and assist in the healing of our own souls. God bless.