Anger, passion and forgiveness

“Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves” — Confucius

Chet and Walt fought over water in a drought-riddled farming community. Their anger boiled into violence, and Walt blinded Chet with a shovel. Chet laid a trap for Walt and shot him dead. Years of imprisonment broke Chet and he was released so he could die and be buried with his family. (Elder David E. Sorenson)

Father Brendan McGuire shares the story of a woman still seething with anger ten years after her divorce. Her Rabbi counsels her: "Listen, for the last ten years, 
you have had a hot coal in your hand, and you have been waiting for your husband to come by so you can throw the hot coal at him.
“All this time, he has been busy living happily in New Jersey with his new family and what have you got? Nothing but a burned hand from the hot coal.” It reminds me of the “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” philosophy. In the end all you have left is a bunch of blind and toothless old men. 

How hard is it to forgive in our world today? Corrie ten Boom spent years in Ravensbruck concentration camp during World War II. Her sister, died there. In 1947 Corrie met one of the cruelest guards from that prison, and he asked her to forgive him. 

“Jesus, help me,” she prayed. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.” She grasped the former guard’s hands and wept. She had never known God’s love more intensely than she did at that moment (Tramp for the Lord, 55–57).

We have the power of the Cross to assist us in our struggle to forgive. In Exodus, those who looked on the bronze serpent were cured of the poisonous snake bites. Those who look on the Cross receive its power. In “A divorce-free city” column earlier this year I shared how the power of the Cross saves the Catholic marriages in a Bosnian city from divorce.

In a ceremony during the marriage the couple clasp the crucifix and vow to take it with them every day of their lives. The cross is enthroned in their homes, and when troubles come along, the couple prays for God’s help before the crucifix.

Forgiveness is at the heart of our relationships! Jesus is uncompromising – if we want God to forgive us, we must forgive others their trespasses. If you come to the table and you have unforgiveness in your heart, you need to leave your offering at the table, go back and forgive. (Matthew 5:24).

Jesus gives us the power to forgive others and also to bind others in unforgiveness (Matthew 18:18). Father Brendan McGuire warns us God’s commandment is really clear: Forgive one another. We cannot enter heaven with unforgiveness in our hearts.

We cannot enjoy a good life if we are bound up in anger at someone. Let go of unforgiveness. “You can choose to be happy. There's going to be stress in life, but it's your choice whether you let it affect you or not.” Valerie Bertinelli

Look at that “…big windshield on the front of your car. And you've got a little bitty rearview mirror. And the reason the windshield is so large and the rearview mirror is so small is because what's happened in your past is not near as important as what's in your future.” Joel Osteen

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By Ken Rolheiser