ECHOING GOD’S FORGIVENESS:
A SECOND LOOK AT LOVE OF ENEMIES
Research # 1
According to a 2001 study of 1,423 adults by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research:
√ 52 percent of those surveyed have forgiven others for past transgressions
√ 75 percent believe they have been forgiven by God for their mistakes
√ 43 percent have asked others to forgive them of past offenses
√ 63 percent have let themselves off the hook
√ women are more forgiving than men
√ middle-agers and older adults are more likely to forgive others than younger adults are
√ forgiveness may be an antidote to anger, but asking for forgiveness can raise stress levels*
Research # 2
Marcia Hootman and Patt Perkins’ book How to Forgive Your Ex-Husband mentions a research on the anger of divorced women. Two conclusions of the research were: a ) phenomenal energy and money are wasted by women trying to get even with their ex-husbands; and b) these women are hurt far more by their anger than they were by their ex-spouses.
√ It would seem from the foregoing that you can’t win whether you forgive or pursue anger, i.e., you either raise your stress levels or be more hurting.
√ An understanding and appreciation of Christian forgiving hopefully will make us see that forgiving is the only win-win step to take. A Christian forgiver is a winner because he/she is a Lover. Forgiving is not just one of the options: it is the Fundamental Option.
WHAT CHRISTIAN FORGIVENESS IS NOT
√ Excusing (explaining a fault or offense)
A father explained to his young children why he has been unfaithful to their mother: “She has not taken care of me. Although she has been a good mother, she was not a good wife.” And that was the closest he could get to asking forgiveness – explaining his fault. He quips years after the breakup, “They understood me. They’re now grown-ups. They have forgiven me.”
Yes, forgiveness may come easy with understanding. But it is not just understanding. In fact, heroic Christian forgiveness will often forego understanding . Jesus demonstrated this when He said on the cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Lk 23:34)
√ Pardoning (releasing a person from punishment) JP II went to his assailant’s cell to communicate God’s healing and forgiveness. But it would be foolish to think that the
criminal, soon after being forgiven, could plead for a release from the punishment of imprisonment. No sir, I may be freed from eternal punishment but not from the temporal effects of my sins, for example, the inevitability of contracting AIDS due my past promiscuous lifestyle. A good understanding of this aspect of Divine Mercy can prevent many souls from doubting God’ forgiveness as soon as they experience the “temporal punishment” effected by their past sins. They should remember that God’s Divine Mercy also gives them strength to face these “temporary” sufferings and turn them into “eternal” sacrifices for the salvation of oneself and others.
√ Similar to Trusting again
“Akala ko ba pinatawad mo na ako? Bakit hindi ka pa rin nagtitiwala sa akin?” An oft-repeated post-forgiveness refrain indeed. Remember that forgiveness is grace; it is freely given. Trust is something earned. I may have forgiven you for stealing money from my office but that does not mean that I will have to entrust my money again to you as my cashier!
√ Simply Forgetting the Misdeeds
“Forgive and Forget, ” says one song.Sorry, guys; that’s magical thinking. It just doesn’t work in real life. Forget? Hello? Our brains do not even possess a tiny bit of gland created for that purpose, I think. Forgetting is even a disease of the brain. So why forget? The opposite is true: Forgive and Remember! Remember how, on your own capacity, you yourself are unable to forgive; that it is God who forgives the other through you! Syempre, ang presupposition ‘dyan ay tumatanggap ka rin ng forgiveness of God. And don’t forget that! St. Peter reminds us to put on virtues in order to remember! He says, “Anyone who lacks them is blind and shortsighted, forgetful of the cleansing of his past sins.” (2 Pt 1:9) So to forget is not virtuous really, because no fruitful effort could be involved here; you are just at the mercy of the passing time! Malilimutan mo rin yun! But “not to remember” is something else! It is wilful and deliberate. Remembering is a particular motif in the scriptures appearing 162 times. Not to remember something is to remember instead some other thing; it means to re-focus attention. That is what we mean by forgive and remember. Forgive and re-focus your attention on how God forgives you and others!
√ Indifference Towards the Offense nor the Offender
“Huwag n’yo na lang pansinin ang tatay n’yo para walang gulo,” advises a battered wife and mother to her kids. Again, a wrong notion that by simply being indifferent to the offense, an atmosphere of peace will be magically achieved. This is borne from the previous myth of “forgive and forget.” The sooner you ignore the offenses the easier the forgetting comes. The more you forget, the more forgiveness comes by easily. Then, there is peace. We can live happily ever after! S’ya nga ba?
Shalom is not just the absence of conflict. It is the presence of wholeness and strong relationships too. It is the presence of healing!
At alam ba ninyo na kaya nagwawagi ang kasamaan sa mundo ay dahil sa mga taong indifferent sa kasamaan!
√ A One-Act Play.
“O sige, bati na kayo ni kuya. Kiss and make up na kayo ha!” a temporary ceasefire agreement among siblings for the sake of the grown-ups; something we were asked to do when we were kids just so to please our parents. Forgiveness is not a rite. It is not a show or “palabas.” In fact, it is a “paloob.” It demands introspection; it demands our “kalooban.” After all, if forgiveness is grace (kaloob) it deserves nothing less than our “kalooban.”
WHAT CHRISTIAN FORGIVENESS IS
√ A Choice, a Decision of Faith
It is impossible to have the virtue of faith without the grace of forgiveness.
√ A Conscious act of Will
It is a free and wilful act and not just passive waiting for “time to heal” till one forgets.
√ Being Responsible For My Responses/ Reactions It is borne of a proactive mind-set and attitude reflecting one’s being a child
of God. Forgiveness stops the blaming game. Only mature people can truly forgive as God does.
√ Giving up the right to hurt someone back
√ Choosing instead to do what’s best for that person
√ Overcoming evil with good (Rom. 12:21) & Reversing the Law of Revenge.
√ Always in the context of Christian love, if it were to be genuine and lasting.
Therefore, it goes without saying that the highest thing love can do is to forgive everyone, even one’s enemies. For a Christian, any love short of forgiveness is only a noisy gong.
Can I recall a time when I did something loving toward an enemy or prayed for someone who mistreated me?
Remember, “Kindness is loving people more than they deserve.” (Joseph Joubert)
*Source: Van Morris, “Research about Forgiveness,” PreachingToday.com (emphases mine).