The power of forgiveness

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Forgiveness is the best painkiller for heartache.

During the years I was struggling with my emotional battle with the Church, I learned to use my will power to be able to gain some control over my emotions. As silly as it can sound, I discovered the choice of forgiving – that forgiveness is a matter of my will.

When I have been hurt and wronged, I had to face two options – I forgive, or I don’t. But to free myself, I had only one choice – to forgive. The beauty of that choice is that I didn’t need to forgive with my heart, but with the greater wisdom of my will. Contrary to the emotional heart, a conscious choice of will engenders objectivity and reason.

During this difficult journey, I found my heart so wounded that I could no longer bear to have to forgive and pretend that everything was okay. Some days, I was able to forgive, and some other days, I wasn’t. It was as if my heart was short-circuited and gradually, it became almost impossible for me to be able to forgive; even if I was trying hard. I could not “feel” anymore to forgive with my heart due to the pain building up from the constant offenses. On top of being wounded, my heart was infused with anger and bitterness. I only wanted justice, apology, and reparation for what they did to me. The only thing I received was more insults and humiliations. 

As I remembered Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:21 – Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him,  “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but times up to seventy times seven”. I thought He was exaggerating and I said to myself,  ”Lord, seventy times seven equals five hundred and thirty-nine, I’ll try to get there, because You said so, but once that number is reached, I am done.”  I was miserable while those people seemed to be enjoying the ride.

I needed to find a way to fix myself before it got out of hand. It didn’t feel good to live with all those negative emotions and to bare the state of my heart. Since I am a person of a good nature, those feelings were unbearable – a real poison, a cancer of the heart. I started to get very sick, emotionally and physically. After 12 years of trying to fit in, the first step I made toward healing, was to get away from the ones who were causing the pain. It was liberating to know that since reason and willpower have no emotion, I didn’t need to impose forgiveness to my heart – I was able to spare my heart from further pain.

In my experience, I learned that there are different levels of forgiveness.

The first one – you forgive with your heart spontaneously for minor issues, and you forget about it. No harm was done.

The second – when something more serious to be forgiven happens, you forgive with your heart out of love, but there comes the first scratch that would take a while to heal.

Then, the last but the most difficult to do is, when someone keeps on hurting you over and over again, you start to have difficulty to forgive with your heart, because you don’t have the time to heal from the time before that person had hurt you. That’s when you have to choose to forgive with your reason, to protect yourself from that cancer called resentment, anger, bitterness or hatred. I called it daily forgiveness. Not because I was wronged every day, but because I was in pain every day.

Once I embraced the fact that I had the power to choose to forgive, I realized that I had power over them. It didn’t matter after that when they kept on trying to hurt me. It had no meaning to me anymore – they were trying in vain. I had found peace in knowing that I didn’t need to feel to forgive but only that I could just choose to because I learned to love myself enough to do so. The result was that instead of feeling anger, I felt satisfaction to know they had no power over me. They could no longer destroy me. Then, what Jesus had said about forgiving seventy-seven times seven made a whole lot of sense to me.

In the end, I could understand that sometimes, we have to take the apologies not offered and move on. Because, if you wait for the apologies to come to you, you can find yourself waiting a very long time. And if you remain in the resentment and anger while waiting, you are the one who suffers – no one else. So why forgive? To free yourself, to find peace and to start the process of healing on your own, without having to wait for the apology or the reparation to come and do the job for you.

When you forgive someone, you are giving yourself a gift. You forgive not because the person deserves it, but because you deserve it.

 

 

Written by Louise Ouellet, Feb. 25th, 2015

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