Forgiveness… Why Is It So Hard?

At times, it seems like an act of prayer for something is easier than an act of forgiveness of someone. It is often easy to pray and love God than to love our fellow human beings. We can easily be close to God in our personal prayers when things go well, but when something or someone had hurt us, that action oftentimes becomes a stumbling block for us in our faith journey. It hurts! It hurts a lot because acts of unkindness, ill-willed intentions, hatred, betrayal, or abandonment go against our human desire to be respected and loved. It gets harder if the person who had hurt us intentionally willed it. This hurt often leads many people to anger and resentment. Resentment, then, destroys the person deep from within because they are not happy. Therefore, at times, we are being personally reminded that to love someone is not simply to like them, but to will their good, salvation, and eternal life as people of faith. That is not easy — not at all — but it is so important in our very own faith journey!

Overcoming evil begins with forgiveness as we choose to rise above the temptation to revenge and take retributive actions. Evil begets more evil, and only with forgiveness and love can we overcome what is humanistically natural to do when we get hurt. Alexander Pope in his “An Essay on Criticism,” which talked about the proper, gentle, and Christian ways to avoid immediate retribution and negativity, said: “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” It is in our human nature to remember and hold on to the undesirable actions of others that had impacted us and feel resentful towards those who have given the woe, yet Christ has taught us the ultimate lesson of forgiveness when He prayed for His enemies and forgave them. (Cf. Luke 23:24)

Just like what I have said earlier (not considering vicious, intentional acts of evil), even with our best intentions, we can humanly err and end up hurting people around us unintentionally. Furthermore, even if a person had done evil against us, we are called to forgive the person just as God has forgiven us. I remember a spiritual director of mine in the past said: “Khoi, many of us have good intentions, but sometimes when we put things into words or actions, the Devil tends to get the best of us by manipulating our weaknesses, which made us end up hurting others. It is important, then, to forgive and pray for one another!” He also said, “Even if someone has dealt you an unnecessary and uncomfortable hand, choose to forgive and pray for him/her, for the sake of your sanity, spiritual health, and freedom.” With his wisdom and patience, he helped guide me through a very tough time in my life and taught me how to pray through the storm and hurt.

It was not easy, but my spiritual director helped me not to focus on the humanistic desire of resentment and vengeance but to learn to pray for the person. As I found myself feeling sickened and hurt by what happened, toward the point that it was affecting my mental focus, psychological and physical health, and even my daily routines, I had to learn to not focus on the negative energy. He taught me to recognize the negativity and prayerfully transform it. He helped me to see this person is, too, a child of God who is struggling through life just as I am — similarly and in a different way. It is important, therefore, to pray for the person that God‘s grace is at work in his/her life just as He is in mine.

I also had to look at myself to learn from my own mistakes and the situation that I was in. It taught me how to grow in prudence and in wisdom by looking at my own self and how I could have unintentionally portrayed myself or perceived myself to be. He taught me that everything can be used for good and that we can grow much with what has been given to us — even what hurts us. From that lesson, I have learned to look at every situation in life to respond with prudence and prayer instead of the immediate reaction that might intensify the pains even more.

I was taught this prayer by a good friend of mine, which I am now sharing with you.

Lord Jesus Christ, I choose to forgive (___name___). I lay down my judgment on Your Cross. Lord Jesus, I give (___name___) a free gift of forgiveness. I forgive them just as You forgave me. I choose to live in the freedom You have given me. Thank you, Lord, for your mercy. Amen.

With this prayer, I would like to end my reflection by asking you to put into practice what you might get from this small exercise. We have the grace of God working in and through us, empowering us to seek the truth that is grounded in love and forgiveness. That is why forgiving is divine! In and through forgiveness, especially our willingness to rise above the negativity, pain, suffering, or evil given to us, we participate and radiate in the love that Christ Jesus has taught us on the Cross, lovingly received by the Father, and sanctified by the power and working of the Holy Spirit.