FORGIVENESS: WHAT IS IT?



How many times should I forgive? How many times do I need to forgive the people who wronged me, the people who hurt and keep hurting me, the people who always misunderstood me?

During my college years, I read a book entitled “Loving Each Other” by a famous author named Leo Buscaglia, describing the word “Forgive.” He described it NOT according to what we used to know now which is, sad to say, contaminated with human biases and prejudices. I quote: "Forgive. There is a wonderful aura surrounding the verb forgive, great warmth and strength. It is a word suggesting a letting go, a releasing, and action which has the power to soothe, heals, reunite and recreate."

It is a VERB, therefore, it is an action, not an emotion. It is a peaceful word having a wonderful aura of selfless love. 

How can I forgive the person who pierced me with a two-edged sword? How can I forgive the person who ruined my life?

I have a friend before, let’s call her Irene. (This is a true story but am not gonna delve in into the details) she was a victim of not just a simple rape, but incest. She was 14 years old when her older brother raped her and then her father raped her too due to the influence of illegal drugs. She was impregnated. Upon hearing her story from her, my blood boiled up to 360 degrees. I cursed her father and brother. I wanted to burn them alive. And I was at rage, even more, when she said these simple words, she was crying that time: “But I forgive them, Kuya. I really hate what they did to me but I forgive them. They are still my family. Mom and I prayed that we can, that I can forgive them and are hoping that the court will give justice to what they did to me.” I can’t accept what she said but I realized later that she was right. What was amazing about her was how she managed to forgive the people who ruined her life.

Quoting Leo Buscaglia again: "Forgiving is not an easy process. Our rational mind is not sufficient to instantaneously break through the intricate web of feelings, which overcomes us when we are wronged." Why? Because being wronged, physically or psychologically abused or taken advantage or inflicted with severe pain creates deep wounds. Is it easy to forgive someone who abused you? Is it easy to forgive someone who stole your dignity and life? Is it easy to forgive someone who made you suffer much? Can you forgive someone who made your life like hell? It is NOT! Our emotion wouldn’t let us, because "When we feel wronged, we immediately look at other for blame. We perceive ourselves as victims. Something has been done to us, the 'innocent.' We have a right to demand justice…and it is accomplished only when we hurt those who have hurt us… they must experience our revenge at once and preferably continue to experience it forever… only then will the slate be wiped clean and our pain disappear."

Forgiving others is a complicated process. It includes our deepest empathy, not just sympathy but empathy, humanity and wisdom. It was so ironical, I am 10 years older than Irene and I was still in my seminary formation that time, I must be the one to guide her to forgive her culprits but I was consumed by my anger. I lost myself and Irene didn’t.

Danica, a friend of mine, was disturbed about the comments she received on her Facebook account. She posted a sexy picture of her with some alcoholic drinks beside her with a caption “Girls just wanna have fun!” and asked my opinion about her post. I asked her if she wants to hear a sugar coated comment or a straight forward comment. She chose the latter so I told her “People have known you as simple fun-loving conservative Filipina, but here, you look like a bitch that’s why you received those comments on your Facebook.” She walked away. Then later some of our friends told me that Danica told them that I was judgemental on her calling her a "bitch". 

When we are wronged by those we love, we appear to devalue years of relationships -- a relationship that gave us joy, laughter, and learning’s but "…with a single harsh statement, a thoughtless act, an insensitive criticism, we are capable of destroying even the closest of our relationships."

It is very real in our lives that we quickly forget the goodness of the person and set out to rationalize scenarios of hate. We do this rather than healthy confrontation. "We divide the world into good and bad and see ourselves as being on the good side, distancing us from the other.” But we do not realize that it is only in identifying with the other, the one that hurt us, and then the process of understanding and forgiveness begin. Maybe this is what Irene did; she identified herself to her culprits but there was more to her. She prayed. She can’t do it alone by herself without God’s blessing of Love.

I too have been mistaken, hurt others, and sinned against God. But I was and is forgiven by God because of His great Love. If God doesn’t know how to forgive, maybe He set us apart from this world and called us the sinners, the unworthy, the wrongdoers, but God didn’t. God can never, and will never divide His relationship with us; If He does, what would happen to us? God continues to see and experience us as human; He identified Himself with us because of His great love for us. Love is a sole spring of forgiveness in which we are able to look at a wrongdoer again as a worthy person. Thus for God, One, two, three or Seventy-Seven times seven act is not sufficient reason for Him to Devalue us, to devalue His relationship with us. "Forgiveness is often called an unconditional gift of love."

Let me end this post with this famous painting of Rembrandt:


What is strange on the painting of Rembrandt is the hands of the father embracing his prodigal son. Notice the right hand of the father it is not a man's hand but a woman's. Rembrandt wants to convey that a father knows not only "man’s act" such as: how to live, how to work, how to earn for living, and the like, but also “woman’s act” such as, how to be compassionate, how to be merciful, how to love, how to nurture and how to forgive.

How many times should I forgive? How many times do I need to forgive the people who wronged me, the people who hurt and keep hurting me, the people who always misunderstood me?

Always forgive. Forgive like a mother forgives her children. Yes, it is very difficult but we have to keep this in mind that we too committed mistakes, we hurt others, we devalue others, thus we too need to be forgiven.

If we can't forgive at the moment because of the pain we are experiencing, remember the one true model of forgiveness, Jesus Christ. He forgave the prostitutes, the evildoers, his disciples, and ultimately those who put him to death. He forgave and will forgive even if it seemed against logic because He loves us unconditionally.


~ THANK YOU ~

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