I am the type of person who can hold a grudge. I still remember injustices that happened to me when I was 8 years old. But, I’ve come to see that by holding on to those things, I am still giving that person power over me. A lot of times we think of Christ’s commandment to forgive others “seventy times seven times” as something that is good for the person who has wronged us. We need to forgive them as Christ did because that forgiveness is good for them. What we often fail to realize is that holding on to grudges and seeking revenge is often far more damaging to us than the original injury is to the one who committed it. It can turn someone who was joyful and virtuous into a sad copy, hell bent on destroying someone else, not realizing that the first person they destroy is themselves.
Now, forgiving someone who has seriously wronged us is not easy. A priest friend once told me about a young woman who had been wronged by a man. The priest didn’t feel that he could just tell her to forgive him. But, he could see how living in that pain and feeding it was hurting her. Another time there was a mother of a friend of mine who felt that her children had been misled and mistaught in school. Instead of forgiving and moving on her Facebook feed is now full of nasty things she says about the school.
Hate breeds more hate, and murderous vengeance will never replace a lost loved one. This is what Christ showed us. There was a downward spiral in history since even the Jews, the chosen people, said, “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”. Everyone tried to get back what was taken from them and more. To break that cycle someone had to say, “enough, you can have what you took and I will not seek retribution.” Christ did this on the cross when he died for us. He taught his followers to repay evil done to us with good. This is really the only way to eliminate evil from the world. If we just keep doing evil back for evil done to us, we will just continue the downward spiral. We need to follow Christ’s example and repay evil with kindness, and, little by little, there will be less evil to repay.
From The Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales:
A brave man can easily bear with contempt, slander and false accusation from an evil world; but to bear such injustice at the hands of good men, of friends and relations, is a great test of patience.