It is one of the most difficult acts to perform. It is talked by many; practiced by few. And needed more than ever.
To forgive someone who has violated us.
It’s been said that by not forgiving others, we are only hurting ourselves.
William Shakespeare wrote:” Heat not a furnace for your foe so hot that it do singe yourself”
And author Dale Carnegie adds that “when we hate our enemies we give them power over us....power over our sleep, our appetites and our happiness. They would dance with joy if they knew how much they were upsetting us. Our hate is not hurting them at all but it is turning our own days and nights into a hellish turmoil.”
And forgiveness is supposed to be good for our overall health. Writes columnist Ann Landers: “forgiving promotes good fellowship, strengthens ties with the family and friends, and best of all, it is good for one’s blood pressure, digestive system and general health.
We all know people whose inability to forgive causes them to look angry and bitter. The agony and the hostility show on their faces. They look defeated and sullen, hard and unsmiling. Their eyes are dead - their jaws are set. Their heads are down, their shoulders slump.
They lack grace when they move. They look like losers – and that’s what they are.”
But forgiving does not mean that we forget what has happened to us. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. puts it this way:“Forgiveness does not mean ignoring what has been done or putting a false label on an evil act. It means, rather, that the evil act no longer remains as a barrier to the relationship. We must recognize that the evil deed of the enemy neighbour, the thing that hurts, never quite expresses all that it is. An element of goodness may be found even in the worst enemy.”
“Hatred does not cease by hatred. But only by love; this is the eternal rule.” wrote Buddha.
But for some forgiving is an impossibility. “The fervour with which we ask forgiveness is matched only by the zeal we display in condemning others” writes Bern Williams.
But we all need to forgive. George Hebert writes: “he who cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself.”
And Jesus Christ had asked a crowd who was about to stone a woman for having committed adultery: “He said that “he who is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7)
And former president of the University of Notre Dame, The Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh summed it up nicely: “Why should we be forgiving and merciful without measure? Maybe the simplest answer is that we are all in such need of mercy and forgiveness that we can ill afford not to be merciful and forgiving of others.”
Finally, we need to walk in the shoes of those that have violated us. Maybe we would not be so hard on those that have hurt us. Wrote Henry Wadsworth Longfellow:“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”
But we have to find the right way to our enemy’s heart. Wrote clergyman Henry Ward Beecher (1813–1887): “you never know until you try to reach them how accessible men are but you must approach each man by the right door.”
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