It is difficult to forgive when you are deeply hurt


What do you think?

Today's Gospel reading tells about the punishment imposed on the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35). Is it always wrong not to forgive?

Laura was a resilient single mother who resided in Malabon with her little son, David. One day some armed policemen arrived in their neighborhood, chasing a suspected drug dealer. David was playing in the front yard when the commotion erupted. Several shots were fired, and tragically, one bullet hit David in the head, causing him to die instantly. 

Sarah was distraught. She became furious when reporters labeled her son as "collateral damage" in the raging drug war. David was her world, her everything, so she seethed against such insensitivity. The policeman who shot David explained that it was an accident and asked for her forgiveness. Laura said with tears in her eyes, "Your explanation cannot bring back my son. No, I cannot forgive you. I won't even try."

Sarah reminds me of Corrie ten Boom, a Dutchwoman who survived unimaginable torture and humiliation in a Nazi concentration camp. She later became a prominent Protestant preacher. One day, after finishing her sermon on God's forgiveness, a man approached her and said, "I listened to your sermon. Please forgive me for what I have done to you."
Corrie froze when she recognized him as the cruel and heartless guard who had tormented her. As he stood before her seeking pardon, the memory of the horrible ordeal she suffered came back. Corrie left the man without uttering a word.  But she silently prayed, "Lord, help me because, at this moment, I can't forgive."

In 2016, Kjartan Sekkingstad, a Norwegian, was kidnapped together with a group of tourists on an island in Mindanao. He endured horrific suffering at the hands of the Abu Sayyaf who beheaded two of his companions. Fortunately, his relatives paid the ransom before his scheduled execution. Upon his release, he told reporters, "I believed that there is always something good in every person. But these kidnappers are an exception. I could not bring myself to forgive them for what they did to me."

Many of us can empathize with Sarah, Corrie, and Kjartan. "Forgive and forget" sounds simple, but how can you do that when you are tormented by pain? Besides, what guarantee do you have that those who hurt you will not do it again? They might also conveniently forget their transgressions and persist in mistreating you.

An anti-Martial Law activist wrote, "Many people condemn me for refusing to forget the past. They want me to move on. How can I do that when the corrupt politicians and their cronies who plundered our nation's coffers and who distorted our sense of right and wrong are still here? Understanding is the prerequisite for forgiveness. How can I understand the impact and consequences of an evil deed if I refuse to remember it? Collective amnesia will not heal the festering wound of injustice."

When we struggle to forgive, let us find solace in the fact that when Jesus hung on the cross, surrounded by people who wished Him dead, He did not say, "I forgive you." Undoubtedly, He desired to do so, but the human side of Him must have been so wounded and tormented, making it difficult for Him to utter those words. He turned to His Father and cried out, "Father, forgive them."

So, when we are hurting badly, let us turn to the Father and pray, much like Jesus did, "Father, be the one to forgive those who have deeply hurt me because, at this moment, I cannot genuinely do so. Heal my broken spirit and alleviate the anguish I bear, so that one day, I may find the strength and courage to say, 'I forgive.'"