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Forgiveness: Going Beyond the Hurt

Last night I had the wonderful privilege of hearing one of my dear friends give a talk about forgiveness and redemptive suffering.   What made the talk so captivating was the powerful personal witness of my friend. About a year ago she while she was working she suffered a freak accident which shattered her pelvis, 3 discs, and left her without the ability to walk normally again.  To make matters even worse this accident was the result of gross negligence of one of her coworkers.   She had gone from a vivacious, active woman, full of hopeful dreams and aspirations, to a woman who could barely stand or walk.  In a cruel twist of fate she also related to us how her doctor told her that she would most likely never be able to have children.  She spoke about how the Lord had given her the grace to forgive, but still despite the grace she still had to make the fundamental decision to decide each and every day to forgive.  Despite her terrible ordeal she also spoke how her suffering united her more closely to the lord, how through her suffering she was able to accept the Lord's grace and strength.  Finally she related how we as a nation must forgive Jared Lee Loughner, the Arizona shooter and accept God's redemptive healing.

It was difficult holding back my tears because she was a good friend of mine.  I had gotten to know her well through working together at Spirit and Truth, a Eucharistic adoration ministry geared towards young adults.  I was always inspired by her contagious joy, she always seemed so cheerful.  She could lift your spirits by just looking at you.  I often times felt that we had a saint in our midst. Her witness helped to put my attitudes towards suffering in perspective.  I am a terrible sufferer, I complain, complain, and I throw very elaborate pity parties.  If complaining were an art than I would be Michelangelo. I remembered distinctly how just a few minutes before arriving to the talk how I had cussed off a car that inadvertently cut me off.  In short I am a ungrateful wretch, I am far too short sighted to see how the Lord has blessed me so extravagantly in my life for example:

  • I am married to the best woman in the universe
  • I am healthy, I have all my limbs, and faculties
  • I have a beautiful, cozy condo down the shore
  • I have the Lord Jesus in my life
  • I have friends, family, that love me
  • I live in the greatest country on earth
  • I have car, although beaten up and ugly still takes me from point A to point B
Here I was complaining about the difficulties of my internship while my friend would not probably be able to walk normally or have children. I realized that I needed to do two things on a regular basis: 1) Be more grateful for the blessings of the Lord and 2) Forgive those who hurt me.

The last step is the most difficult for me.  Unfortunately I have attributed forgiveness to ultimate passivity, a sign of great weakness.  Too many times I had witnessed in my life, that "turning the other cheek" was a just an invitation for abuse.  For years I had harbored this view, and I am sad to say I still have a long way to go on this end.  I hate injustice, I think its abhorrent that I should forgive injustice.  Isn't God after all a God of Justice? If everyone keeps forgiving and turning the other cheek won't evil eventually triumph?  If we would have had this, "turning the other cheek" mindset with Hitler, then the entire world would be saying "Sieg Heil" today.  Why should we forgive Jared Lee Loughner after all, he killed an innocent girl, and 5 other people?  Like I said before I hated injustice, but through this talk something inside of me began to shift...

I began to learn that forgiveness had nothing to do with feelings. Forgiveness instead was a cold hearted, rational and systematic releasing of a spiritual debt that one had unjustly incurred. I may have been hurt in the past, but by not forgiving I was incurring spiritual debt and if I continued towards this ruinous path it would only harden my heart creating an inhuman wall of of bitterness.  To die in bitterness would be the ultimate refusal of God's graces, a pathetic and a most unfitting way to live a half life.

It is my prayer that the Lord gives me the grace of forgiveness so that like my friend I can be cheerful and radiate God's hope though my daily sufferings.   I might have a long way to go, but at least I am starting.


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