Is Your Heart A Prison Or Do You Have Room For Love?


The Lord's Prayer
Why is it so hard to forgive those who have hurt you?
 
Does it seem like if you forgive the one who’s hurt you, that person bears no responsibility? They’re off the hook? That forgiving them means they are not accountable and that you will suffer alone? So many relationships – family, friends, marriages – are destroyed by an unwillingness to forgive and let go of hurt. When you don’t forgive, your heart becomes a prison holding those who have hurt you hostage. 
 
Forgiveness is key if you desire personal happiness. Who wants to date someone who is wrapped up in anger and self-pity? In making yourself available for a romantic relationship, you should visit the forgiveness department of your heart, because not forgiving could be holding you back. An unwillingness to forgive has a physical, spiritual, moral, and emotional effect.
 
It has a physical effect because when you don’t forgive and instead entertain thoughts of anger, resentment, or revenge, it has a physical affect on your body. The amount of energy spent on being angry plays a role in why some people suffer from exhaustion, and could cause your immune system to become depleted, leaving you susceptible to flues and viruses. The stress from being bitter and angry often results in ulcers, acid reflux, headaches, sleep deprivation, inability to concentrate, and other serious problems. 

A lack of forgiveness also has a spiritual effect because it prevents us from truly loving God and others, which defeats our purpose as human beings. Giving and receiving love is what we were created for. A priest once asked me in confession, Do you want to be in love? And of course, my answer was yes! Then he went on to ask me, How can you say that and not forgive? Your heart has little room for love – it is filled with anger and resentment for those who have hurt you. For me, that was a stinging slap across my face, but certainly one I needed, for I had to admit he was right.
 
There’s also the moral effect that not being willing to forgive has, because Christ commanded us to forgive (cf. Matthew 18:35). He made it clear that anyone who did not forgive from the bottom of their hearts would suffer themselves. As we’ve heard in Matthew’s gospel, we cannot ask God for His mercy and forgiveness for our own sins and failings, yet refuse to forgive our brothers and sisters for theirs. We need to find it within ourselves, no matter how deep the wounds are, to forgive.
 
But knowing you need to forgive is much easier than the act and this is a much bigger issue. Here are a few suggestions to help you on your way:
 
  1. You need God’s help. This issue of forgiveness is such a huge monster to tackle that to try and do it on your own could disappoint and discourage you. Pray to God and ask Him for the grace to forgive – then trust that He will give it to you. But make it a daily prayer. Another friend of mine put it very well… she prayed that God would make her “willing to be willing to forgive.” She didn’t want to forgive but since she knew she couldn’t heal without forgiving, she left it entirely up to God, praying for the grace and eventually, forgiveness came. God gently brought her the gift of that grace in His perfect timing. He can do the same for you. 
  2. Don’t beat yourself up. Forgiveness is an everyday process and cannot be accomplished quickly (unless, of course, God grants you an extraordinary grace). You may one day feel you can forgive and the next day you want revenge. Believe me, it is and it’s not indicative of failure at all. Just remain open to God’s grace. That’s all you have to do to allow Him to work on your heart. Imagine an olympic athlete training for their goals… it takes time. 
  3. Acceptance paves the way for forgiveness. Do you understand that you cannot control what other people think, say, and do? If you haven’t done this yet, take some time to reflect upon what acceptance means in regard to those you need to forgive. 
 
These three points help to address the emotional affect that not forgiving hurts has. Working on forgiveness helps to bring a healthy balance to how you feel.
 
A great book for working on forgiveness is How To Forgive Yourself And Others, by Father Eamon Tobin. I highly recommend this book.
 
Always remember that Jesus is very close to you as you work to forgive. He loves you with a passionate and never-ending love. In your journey toward forgiveness, lean on Him. Ask Him for the graces you need to detach from the hurts. He is waiting to give it to you and will not leave you alone in your suffering.
 
 





8 Comments

  1. Brenda-74660 November 6, 2012 Reply

    Acceptance paves the way for forgiveness. Do you understand that you cannot control what other people think, say, and do? If you haven’t done this yet, take some time to reflect upon what acceptance means in regard to those you need to forgive.

    This is so true. And I appreciate the reminder as Advent approaches I find myself focusing on healing & moving forward. God Bless you for this time appropriate topic. Brenda

  2. JonPaul-384745 November 6, 2012 Reply

    Very Nice

  3. Barb-697255 November 7, 2012 Reply

    No thank you, I do not like this story. Jesus never said detach from hurt. He cryed at Lazurus dead.If there is an intellectual injustice done to me of course I can easily dismiss it or detach. If it is something that strikes me deeply emotionally then there is healing and wisdom and feeling and pain and understanding and acceptance and change. That is none of detachment. It is in fact attachment. Detaching is a form of deniai and does not equate forgiveness but is pretending.

    • Lisa-727959 November 7, 2012 Reply

      As Jesus was being nailed to the cross, He prayed, “Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do.” That is the ultimate form of detachment from hurt and act of forgiveness.

      Forgiveness is a difficult thing to do, no question, but Jesus’ example is something we are all called to imitate.

  4. Nigel-748943 November 7, 2012 Reply

    If you ask me to define forgiveness, then my answer to you would be :
    Forgiveness is, in my opinion, the act of me giving a person who has offended me, the opportunity to voluntarily make amends for the the offence which he/she has committed against me, without me retalating against my offender.
    Forgiveness is NOT, under any circumstances, me allowing a person to commit any offence, or me allowing an offender to be immune from an educative penalty.
    I easily forgive any person who offends me in thought, word, and action.
    I carry forgiveness in my heart.

    Nigel.
    748943.

  5. Annette-914859 November 17, 2012 Reply

    In order to be forgiven, I have to learn to forgive. That is what God expects of me. It is not easy and I am in continous process of working on this. I feel that forgiveness equals freedom. If I continue to harbor anger, resentment and unforgiveness it only hurts me. It’s like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

  6. Sue-906387 November 22, 2012 Reply

    Forgiveness is very profound and therapeutic. Also confession is very cathartic. Bear in mind that restoration of the relationship is Not always wise, in particular if the offender is in denial and refuses to admit his/her hurt to us. Yet, Jesus asks us to always forgive.

    The topic of forgiveness is very critical. Thanks for writing. Happy Thanksgiving!

  7. Jeann-850705 January 4, 2013 Reply

    I found out the one I though, was God-sending man in my life has been sending people everywhere to follow me till Alabama, New 3 days ago and everywhere has many members of the church working for me. I contacted St Vincent de Paul society lately and when I asked the gentleman on phone he told me his name was David. He came to visit me with another one name Keith; after they left, because he was disguised I realized that that was the man who came aggressively to talk & handed me a baby bag belonging to someone else, to me last month, he was accompanied with African American lady. I believe that all are fake names. They are under cover workers. I hope Father Mathew is not part of that… For sure the so called David has already called John and gave him more of my information about me to him. He knows very well that I am in need and they try everything to torture & delaying me any assistance & making me miserable. But he might have even told him look at such big evidence that this person is after u because she does not have a place to stay and need your support. This African lady is manipulating u for financial assistance. I did not go to John. John is the one approached me. Prior to that day of our first meeting, I did not know anything about John and I still do not know him well, beside that I suspect him with the type of job he does, using old & young people, one of his usher friends was at the 12:10 mass today at St Mathew cathedral, one pew behind me, the members of the eucharistic ministers… He has been changing his appearance to confuse me but he will confuse himself. His friends have encouraged Theresa to use the church to seduce John, I am sure because he could see her more often and fall in love with her instead of that African lady. She is everywhere in the church and as even eucharistic minister ( I will never let her give me communion); Never seen before in the church this Theresa till I met Joh. She is like a clown to me, she is trying to change her tone to be nice and everything is faked on her. I believe, she knows & realize that she should not step on my toes. If John knows that I am suffering and asked his friends to delay me any help that was supposed to come, I will not forgive him for that. I have never asked anyone before for anything even the ST Vincent Society, I asked to assist with my 2009 hospital bill, they did not (Someone was asked today are they help Africans, I told them I really do not know from my own experience. Not working for so long has caused this to happen to me. Right now I am the laughing stock of John & his friends…Has God permitted this humiliation in my life. People who do not have any respect for other races and have bad stereotype of African. It is lack of education and I will let u know that I am not this stereotype of African you have in your mind. I want to be humbled otherwise I will tell them I am better than them. My Lord is great and I will overcome.

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