One of the major themes, or doctrines, of Christianity has to do with the subject of forgiveness. It is so important that, it is impossible for one to claim to be a Christian without learning to forgive.
The following is a short story on forgiveness from the Internet.
Sandra Walker, a mother of two, lost her husband in a car accident that also caused her to have a life-changing brain injury, according to The Daily Mail.
At the trial for the accident, in her court statement Walker said she sympathised with the woman who crashed into them—who herself lost a child in the accident—and gave her a hug. “I know she is going through as much pain as I am feeling. I wanted her to know that I forgive her for what she did,” Walker told WSB-TV.
This is a moving true story of someone who had the right to be angry over the carelessness of another. In spite of that, she mustered the courage to forgive the one who caused her the pain.
It is possible someone has also hurt you. You may be nursing the desire to see him or her suffer for the pain he or she caused you. After all, the Law of Talion, that is, the law of retaliation, says, “an eye for an eye.”
Whereas “an eye for an eye” may sound sweet to us, generally speaking, it is very un- Christian. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” This is so true, because no one is perfect; and as much as others offend us, we also offend them.
We shall now consider some five ways of learning to forgive:
1. Pray for the Grace
Alexander Pope once said, “To err is human, to forgive divine.” Precisely because no human being is perfect, we are bound to make mistakes and offend people. This is an unfortunate human condition we all struggle with. Even though we are fully aware of this human limitation, we find it so difficult to forgive offences. God, on the other hand, is God of mercy and compassion. He forgives all who repent. Since He is God of mercy and compassion, we need to approach Him in prayer to ask for the grace to forgive. “To forgive is divine” means without the help of God we cannot forgive as required of us as Christians.
2. Choose to Forgive
Life is all about choices. There is no situation in which we can say that we were so helpless we had no choice. There is always a choice. Consider the life of Christian martyrs. They had the choice to preserve their lives by denying knowledge of Christ. In that difficult situation they chose to die for Christ rather than deny Him. In much the same way, when people offend us, we have the option to react in one way or another – either to forgive or not to forgive. We are certainly not saying it would be an easy choice, but that is where we need grace from above. By the grace of God, we are able to choose to forgive. There is nothing God cannot do (cf. Luke 1:37).
3. Remember your Limitations
As Alexander Pope said, “to err is human.” One of the powerful ways of learning to forgive, is to constantly think of our own limitations. Remember the many times we have offended, or hurt, someone. It might have been unintentional. At that moment we sought for sympathy. We tried very hard to explain ourselves, and maybe asked to be given another chance. Now let us reverse positions, and take the place of the one in need of forgiveness. Could it be that they may have done what they did unintentionally, as we did sometime ago? Whatever it may be, when we humbly consider our limitations, we are able to let go more easily.
4. Read stories on Forgiveness
Finding time to read about people who had the right to be angry but chose to forgive can be very helpful in learning to forgive. They serve as inspiration to us to imitate their good example. For instance, on 13 May 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot and wounded by Mehmet Ali Agca while he was entering the St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican City. This near fatal incident shook the whole world. The culprit was apprehended and later sentenced to life in prison. The Pope had every right to be angry with the barbaric attack. That notwithstanding, he chose to forgive. In 1983, Pope John Paul II visited his would-be assassin in prison, and had a private conversation with him. He later asked for his pardon, and he was released and deported to Turkey. This and many other stories, like the one we started with, can go a long way to encourage us to learn to forgive.
5. Remember Christ
Thinking about Christ and the price He had to pay to redeem us can be another great motivation for which we must learn to forgive and let go. We cannot forget that He paid the debt He did not owe. Peter tells us in his first letter: “He personally carried our sins in His body on the cross…By His wounds you are healed” (1 Pt. 2:24). He suffered the ignominy of the cross for sinners like us. He was spat upon, ridiculed, mishandled, scourged at the pillar, and finally crucified like a criminal. In the face of all this, He rose above hatred and anger, and said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
In conclusion, we once again admit that it is not easy to forgive offences. That notwithstanding, it is possible to forgive. In fact, the first beneficiary of forgiveness is the the forgiver himself, before the forgiven. Until we learn to really forgive and forget, forgive and let go, we would be poisoning ourselves with the bitterness of hatred and anger. Martin Luther King, Jr, said: “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” In a nutshell, love impels us to forgive. Forgive, today.
Authored by Rev. Fr. John Patrick TINDANA (Accra, Ghana)