This is the eighth part in the series Making Relationships Matter
“The patient man goes through a great and salutary purgatory when he grieves more over the malice of one who harms him than for his own injury; when he prays readily for his enemies and forgives offenses from his heart; when he does not hesitate to ask pardon of others; when he is more easily moved to pity than to anger” – The Imitation of Christ
Let’s face it. We have all been hurt by people in the past whether it be intentional or inadvertent. It can come from family, friends, and even complete strangers. It can be as casual as a snide remark or as deep and painful as a violation of one’s dignity and trust.
As human beings, our initial reaction is that of anger. But we all know that at the root of that anger is a very deep and real pain. So how do we learn to love our enemies amidst the pain?
Wisdom of the Saints
The Saints have become a wonderful source of solace and comfort when I am struggling with unforgiveness. I look to the Saints often because I consider them a part of my earthly family and they are ever ready and willing to help with my daily struggles. Here are my favorite Saints’ quotes on forgiveness:
“If a man finds it very hard to forgive injuries, let him look at a Crucifix, and think that Christ shed all His Blood for him, and not only forgave His enemies, but even prayed His Heavenly Father to forgive them also.” – Saint Philip Neri
“For there are three ways of performing an act of mercy: the merciful word, by forgiving and by comforting; secondly, if you can offer no word, then pray – that too is mercy; and thirdly, deeds of mercy.” – Saint Faustina Kowalska
“Forgiveness is the remission of sins. For it is by this that what has been lost, and was found, is saved from being lost again.” –Saint Augustine
“He who knows how to forgive prepares for himself many graces from God. As often as I look upon the cross, so often will I forgive with all my heart.” – St. Faustina
Below are some simple ways to forgive and love our enemies:
1 . Pray for Them
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Pray for those who persecute you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”
When I begin to get angry at what someone has done to me in the past, I pray a simple Memorare slowly and lovingly. When I get overwhelmed, I try to offer up all my emotional suffering for the conversion and healing of my soul and theirs.
2 . Do Good To Them
One thing that helps me with forgiveness is to do good to my enemies. I’ve recently developed a habit of enrolling names of people in Perpetual Mass Societies. So instead of dwelling in past hurts and situations, doing good to them by enrolling them in perpetual masses allows me to move forward emotionally. Every time I do so, an indescribable peace envelopes me and melts ill feelings I have towards my enemies. And even if they don’t appreciate my gift in this life, I’m pretty sure they will be very thankful for this act of kindness in the next life.
There are times, however, when we are unable to “do good” for our enemies because it just isn’t possible. So instead of doing good, I simply think good thoughts about this person. If I remember a person’s bad trait, I stop myself in my tracks and remember three good qualities about them.
3 . Remain Humble
Saint John Cantius once wrote, “Avoid offending anyone for to ask forgiveness is not delightful”.
But we all know that this isn’t always possible. We are bound to offend someone even if the intention is not always there. When relationships are at stake, my first reaction is to always look within. I ask myself, “what can I do to become a better person in the future?”
I’ve already accepted the fact that I can not control how other people behave. I can not control how other people feel about me. What I can control is my own emotions and behavior. I can focus on improving my own faults, weaknesses, failures and shortcomings. When I do so, I become more aware of God’s tender mercy towards me and gain the strength I need to extend that same mercy towards others.
4 . Respect Their Dignity As Children of God
We don’t ever want to be defined by our past mistakes and actions. Consequently, we don’t want to define a person’s worth by their past mistakes and actions also. Even if people exhibit hurtful behavior, we are called to respect their dignity because they are human beings made in the image and likeness of God Himself. And because this person was formed and fashioned by the Creator Himself, we are still called to respect them…even if they don’t always respect us.
5 . Fast Forward
When I still have a difficult time forgiving, I try to fast forward to the last two hours of my life and realize that I will be asking our Gracious God for the same mercy that I am refusing to give to my own neighbor. I then rewind back to the present, pray to God to help me let go of my anger and give me the grace to offer up all my pain out of love for Him and those who have hurt me.
Always At Our Side
Loving our enemies allows us to offer up the pains of the past to our Lord in order to live in true and authentic freedom today. While it is a daily struggle, know that Jesus Himself, who readily forgave His executors at the foot of the cross, is always at our side ready and willing to comfort us and heal our deepest wounds.