All of us have been hurt by someone. Sometimes the pain we carry from injuries others have inflicted upon us runs very deep. In our Fallen state, we will all fail in our call to love others as Christ loves them. Whether pain has been inflicted upon us or we are the ones inflicting the pain, the reality is, we are all in need of forgiveness often. The only way to end the cycle of pain is to forgive and to move towards others in love, even those who hurt us in profound ways. We have the choice to stay locked away in resentment and anger or we can choose to love. Christ calls us to choose love.
Oftentimes in our anger and suffering at the hands of others we forget that human beings are complex. This is not to mitigate very real injustices we all experience at the hands of others, it is simply to point out that we often don’t have the whole story or understand the pain the other person is carrying who has lashed out at us. There will be times in our lives when we simply have to allow the other person’s pain to wash over us in the same way Our Lord stands silent before His accusers and as He empties Himself on the Cross for those whose hatred and envy led to His Crucifixion.
This is the divine plan. God takes our anger, pain, malice, sin, envy, and pride and takes it all upon Himself on the Cross for each one of us in love. He seeks to end the cycle of violence that we human beings cannot break free from on our own. We still struggle to break free today. In our pride, we hurt the people we love the most and rather than seek reconciliation we often allow that pride to eat away at the love we have for others. Rather than turn back to the other person in order to make amends, we hold onto our grudges, our pain, and our anger to our own destruction and the destruction of the relationship with the other person.
Human beings inflict pain on one another for a whole host of reasons. The most common seem to stem from pride or envy and in our blindness we hurt people who are simply trying to love us and will our good. This is the most painful type of rejection and betrayal and when we experience it, we are being most conformed to Christ. To be rejected for loving someone, truly loving them, is to be united to Christ on the Cross who gives Himself in love even to those who reject and betray Him.
The hard part comes after we’ve experienced the Cross in our relationships. After we have endured the pain, we must forgive. Loving as Christ loves is the very meaning of our lives and it requires everything from us. It is a complete relinquishment of self. The path to holiness means that we must learn to let go of the anger and resentment stemming from the pain others inflict upon us and to realize in humility that we too hurt people in harmful ways. We are called to be as Christ after the Resurrection and give our Shalom to the people who have hurt us.
We ourselves are forgiven in Christ. The God who created us and gave us life forgives every sin we commit, even though every sin we commit required Our Lord’s death on the Cross. We cannot love fully without forgiveness. The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 2840 states:
“Now—and this is daunting—this outpouring of mercy cannot penetrate our hearts as long as we have not forgiven those who have trespassed against us. Love, like the Body of Christ, is indivisible; we cannot love the God we cannot see if we do not love the brothers and sisters we do see. In refusing to forgive our brothers and sisters, our hearts are closed and their hardness make them impervious to the Father’s merciful love; but in confessing our sins, our hearts are opened to his grace.”
When we choose not to forgive those who have hurt us, we allow our hearts to be hardened. We are no longer open to charity and divisions form within the Mystical Body that are counter to God’s love and mercy.
Forgiveness is not a matter of forgetting an offense or ignoring the injustice done to us. Instead, it is a movement outward from ourselves towards the other that seeks to heal the wounds and divisions that have been created. It is to see that the love we have for the other person supersedes the pain they have caused us. This movement of love always seeks to heal ruptured communion between persons in the same manner as Our Lord’s Paschal Mystery.
Forgiving the offenses others commit against us unleashes great spiritual power that transforms and deepens charity. It is to move more deeply into the great mercy and mystery of God. Part of this is accomplished when we turn the pain that has been inflicted upon us into redemptive suffering. Through offering up the pain we have experienced in sacrifice for others or the person who has hurt us, we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives and in the lives of others. The Catechism explains: “It is not in our power no to feel or forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession.” The incredible grace that God unleashes upon us through forgiveness allows us to transform our hurt into good.
The amazing truth of the matter is that when we forgive, we come to a deeper understanding of other people and God’s love for us. We can begin to see others more clearly and to understand that while what they have done to us is wrong, it oftentimes comes from a place of pain or fear within them that needs to be healed. We also discover that turning our pain into sacrifices for others, the Holy Spirit gives us the grace to endure even more painful situations down the line. We are strengthened in charity so that we can stand fast when faced with someone’s anger or pain in the future.
Forgiveness unleashes tremendous power. It deepens and purifies the charity we have for others and it strengthens our relationships. We become more conformed to Christ and enter more deeply into the divine love. Any relationship that can endure testing and pain inflicted by both or one party will be considerably stronger than any relationship that’s never experienced hardships. Charity is tested when we hurt one another and it is strengthened through forgiveness. The choice then becomes: Will we love as Christ loves in those moments or will we walk away? To love as Christ loves we must forgive.