Healing Through Forgiveness
I’m sure you’ve heard that there’s no healing without forgiveness, and I am living proof of that. “If we really want to love, we must learn how to forgive,” says St. Teresa of Calcutta. We mirror God’s mercy on us when we bestow mercy on those who have hurt us. We also need to learn how to forgive ourselves for bad choices we may have made in our lives.
One of the heaviest chains we tend to carry around with us is unforgiveness. We all have been wronged, and some of us have been deeply hurt by other people. Unforgiveness becomes a poison to yourself, much like a cancer to the soul. All of us need to constantly ask God for the graces necessary to forgive one another if we are to attain peace in our hearts.
It took me years to be able to forgive my abuser. I want to share the power of forgiveness with you by sharing a personal story from someone I know well.
I was in my early twenties and living in Boston when something happened that helped me understand forgiveness in a different light. My mom called from Brazil to tell me that my cousin, her husband, and their five-year-old son had been hit and killed by a drunk driver while walking home one evening. An entire family wiped out in one awful instant. I was close with my cousins and was devastated. I also struggled to understand why God would allow such terrible things to happen to good people. After hanging up with my mom, I called my aunt, who had just lost her family. After lots of tears, I asked her how she felt about the man who was responsible for killing those she loved most. Her response was so immediate and shocking that I had to ask her a second time, but she gave the same answer: “I have forgiven him already. My Catholic faith demands it.”
I had never heard anyone put it that way before. Immediately, two things came to mind: (1) How I wish I could have that kind of faith and (2) if my aunt could forgive the man who just devastated her family, there must be a way for me to forgive the man who did those terrible things to me when I was a little girl.
Looking back now, I realize how God was using a painful situation for someone else’s good. And that someone else was me, the very broken me. That’s the power of forgiveness.
From the day on (when I spoke to my aunt), I made a conscious decision to forgive my abuser. In doing so, I transitioned from a victim to a survivor. This was a gradual, everyday process of choosing to forgive. And as I did, I began to experience more peace, and most importantly, I was ready to grow closer to God. I trusted him more, I looked for him more, and I was curious to see what he meant when, so many times throughout my darkest nights, I heard him say to me, “If you only knew the wonderful plans I have for you.”
We have to realize that forgiveness (feeling) is a process. A very slow and long process at times. It all starts with the desire to forgive. We must never allow the poison of unforgiveness to take hold of our spirit. Instead, we need to open our hearts to forgive others for their trespasses and also offer our apologies. The more we grow as children of God, we must realize how we need to pray every day for the courage to be open to both constantly - forgive and ask for forgiveness. Looking at scriptures, we can clearly see how Our Lord teaches us about the need for forgiveness. Sirach 27: 30 - 28:2-3 says it perfectly:
“Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. Forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done; them when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord?”.