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                 Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

“Father, I have forgiven, but I will never forget what she did to me; after all, I suffered for her sake; you need to be in my shoes to feel the way it hurts!” This was a response I got from someone I was counseling to let go of a hurting experience. From the reaction, any attentive mind would see that the individual is still hurting, and forgiveness is not just in view. 

Life is a typical journey, but we are never alone. We often travel with people who come into our lives by God’s design, like our parents, siblings, and children, and the ones we choose, like our friends, spouses, and partners. We often go through high and low moments with people. Sometimes they make us happy at other times, they make us sad or even hurt us badly. But how we react to hurt is a choice we should make.

Forgiveness is a familiar theme. We hear about it countless times from parents, teachers, preachers, friends, and other people. But what we have not fully explored is how to forgive. There would be a need for us to learn how to forgive instead of recycling the recurrent theme of forgiveness. The truth is that most people want to forgive, but they lack the know-how!  

The Gospel Reading (Matt. 18:21-35) presents a dependable key to how we can forgive any hurt. The narrative begins with an interface between Jesus and Simon Peter, who wanted to know how many times he could forgive an offender. He even added, “as much as seven times?” It seemed that Peter was in that place of giving up on forgiving someone who has been consistently hurtful. Replying, our Lord said not seven times but seventy-seven times. He was telling Simon Peter not to count when it comes to forgiveness because God does keep count as the book of Psalm (130:3) says: “if you O Lord should keep record of our sins, who would stand?”

Our Lord Jesus goes further to demonstrate how to forgive with a kingdom parable. In the parable, a servant who was unable to repay his master’s loan was about to be sold along with his wife and children, but he cried out,  asking the master to be patient with him as he plans to pay in full. Moved with compassion, the master let him go and forgave him the loan.

Leaving the master’s presence, the servant found a fellow servant who owed him a smaller amount, and he seized and started to choke him while demanding for pay back. He even went further to send him to prison, although the fellow asked him to be patient with him. When the master heard about the servant’s cruel deed, he summoned him and had him tortured until he paid the whole debt.

Lessons from the Forgiving Master

We can find the key to forgive from the master’s reaction when the wicked servant asked him to be patient and give him time to pay in full. The narrative tells us that the master was moved with compassion and let him go.

Compassion is the key! True forgiveness is not possible without compassion. Yes, there is true forgiveness, and it comes from the heart, not from the head. The forgiveness that comes from the head is often political and selfish. It aims at what one would benefit or lose when one forgives. 

The true forgiveness from the heart is compassionate because it identifies with the offender and feels the situation. Without compassion, it would be difficult to let go and twice challenging to heal from a hurtful experience.

Start with Yourself: The “Compassion Way” 

Compassion helps you start from yourself because you need to feel it before you can come to terms with others. Some people are unable to forgive other people because they have not been able to forgive themselves. You cannot possibly give what you do not have. Forgive yourself, and you will be activated to forgive others,

The First Reading (Sirach 27:30-28:7) helps us understand that forgiveness is basically for the benefit of the “forgiver” and not for the “forgiven.” It asks, “can anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord?” In another place, it says, “forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.” 

Our Lord Jesus Christ supports idea while teaching the Lord prayer when he said:

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matt. 6:14-15).

Moving Forward: “Forgive everything or Forfeit all.”

According to a research from John Hopkins medicine, forgiveness contributes a lot to our health and wellbeing. The study direction shows that forgiveness lowers heart attack, high cholesterol, sleeplessness, blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and stress. You can attest to the mental and emotional torture you may be experiencing because of the failure to forgive.

At this point, it is essential to re-examine your forgiveness quotient. Remember that the forgiveness you give is more for your liberation than for others. The Gospel Reading gives a picture of what unforgiveness can do from the unforgiving servant; it could seize and choke you. To forgive is to release someone from prison and to discover that you are the prisoner.

When we forgive, we overcome evil with good, as St. Paul tells the Romans (Rom.12:21). We can achieve this through prayer. Our Lord instructed us to love our enemies and pray for those who hurt us (Matt. 5:44).

There would be no gainful future without forgiveness. This is the time to let go, let God, and heal from those hurts of the past. If you are still pondering the past, know that you cannot change anything that happened in the past. Embrace the present and forge ahead for a glorious future.

Even when you cannot forget the past, try not to remember it with resentment nor to go on recounting it. Let it go!

God bless you as you decide today to forgive!

Fr. Bonnie.

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