Readings for today: Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18; 1 Corinthians 3:16-23; Matthew 5:38-48.
“You have heard how it was said: Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. But I say this to you: offer no resistance to the wicked. On the contrary, if anyone hits you on the right cheek, offer him the other as well.”
Eye for eye and tooth for tooth. If someone hurts you, ridicules you, makes life difficult for you, go after them and make sure that they feel the pain that they caused you.
It sounds familiar, right? Human beings are petty beings. I know that I definitely can be, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you are too. It’s human nature to defend yourself after you have been hurt, and one of the defense mechanisms that we have is to ‘return the favour’ – in the crudest way – and go after the eye of someone who has hurt ours.
I have begun to see how time and time again, God always delivers to me a reminder through His word. He knows how petty I can get, and how this week I struggled with the concept of forgiveness.
A few days ago I found out that an ex recently started dating this girl – a really pretty one – and went extremely public with it. This boy, the same boy that I had been in a relationship with many moons ago, seemed to change completely. He wasn’t hiding his relationship with this girl, he was proud of it. But when I found myself in her shoes, the tune wasn’t quite the same. In fact, he avoided it at all costs. We had a quick relationship in a very short time frame, followed by months of drought and one-sided love.
When I saw this, I became angry, upset, and jealous. How could he do this to me? Why does he deserve love when he didn’t even try when we were together?
The end of this relationship came with a lot of unanswered questions, waves of anger and resentment, and ultimately a destroyed self-confidence that led me to believe that I would never be good enough for anyone. If I was in pain, he was not only to know it, but to experience it as well. But years later, he was on top of the world with this new relationship and I am still me.
“You will not harbour hatred for your brother. . .You will not exact vengeance on, or bear any grudge against. . . love your neighbour as yourself.”
I was the grudge, in all of its ugly forms. It’s so easy to hold a grudge, to be cold to the people who hurt you, to talk poorly about them behind their back and to tarnish their reputation.
But forgiveness is beautiful. It enlightens you and allows you to be more free. In order to experience that freedom, we need to choose to let go and let God. Holding grudges is a burden that we ultimately choose to take upon ourselves. God knows our struggles and knows that we are grudge holding beings, and He comes to us today and every day to take our load and help us become more holy.
At the same time, all of this comes back to my new year’s goal to be more humble. By choosing to withhold my forgiveness, not only do I take on an extra burden, but I also am outright refusing humility.
I fail God many times a day and am not worthy of His love. The moment I choose to repent and come back to Him, He is there waiting for me. God does not hold grudges or leave me out in the cold. He welcomes me home and forgives me.
So if God can forgive me, I too should forgive those who hurt me.
This is definitely easier said than done, as proved to me this past week. But by choosing forgiveness and moving forward, we build up our strength and allow ourselves and others to move towards holiness.
Mahatma Gandhi once said that if we followed the eye for an eye logic, the whole world will be blind. It definitely provides perspective and allows me to think more clearly about how damaging a lack of forgiveness can be.
Forgiveness is freedom. It is enlightening, wonderful, and beautiful.
St. Maria Goretti, pray for us.
(lead image from https://www.manataka.org/page2693.html).