My heart sank and began beating faster.
I could feel the warmth hit my skin as my face started to flush. Echoes of the hurtful, untrue words being said about me rang in my mind like a gong being struck hard again and again. I was hurt. I was embarrassed. I was angry.
For a while, I clung to that pain. Reassurances from others that what had been alleged was untrue and out of line fueled my anger. I purposefully avoided the person who hurt me and while I was cordial when I did encounter them, I was not charitable in thought.
Time has since passed and the hurt has begun to heal, but I know I have not yet forgiven. And part of me just wants the situation to go away, to wake up with a clear sense of peace and forgiveness without the work that goes along with it. I want the dust from the explosion to settle, but don’t want to clean up the mess after. Yet even if I’m not actively breathing in the thin layer of dirt, it is still there, making my heart just a little less than clean.
Forgiveness cannot happen passively, but must be worked on actively. It requires a dying to our self and our ego. In the Gospel today, Jesus teaches that we must actively love those who hurt us and then go a step further by praying for them.
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)
Golly, is that a hard teaching to follow! I don’t know about you, but when someone hurts me, I don’t want to think about them, much less pray for them. But there is so much wisdom in this command. In praying for our enemies, we begin to see them as human. We begin to tear down the illusions of heartlessness and see even the person we like the least as a child of God.
Forgiveness is hard. It’s messy and it takes time. But the mess and time are worth the healing and peace God shares when we take the time and actively choose to love everyone we encounter.
Sarah Stanley is a small town Ohio girl who is mildly obsessed with all things Ignatian and is very passionate about faith, social justice, and the intersection of the two. She recently earned her Master of Divinity and now serves as the Director of Christian Service at a high school in New England. When she’s not working, she enjoys contagious laughter, travel, clever puns, and finding the good in all things. You can find out more about her here.