FORGIVING: AN ENDURING ACT OF LOVE
By: Apolinario B. Villalobos
In the Bible, a reader could find chapters devoted to parables in which the theme is forgiveness. Forgiveness as an act of love was emphasized by Jesus Christ who implored God to forgive those who betrayed him. From that instance evolved the popular adage, “if God can forgive, why can’t we”. Indeed, why can’t we?
To forgive really takes a lot of courage and a big heart, especially when the act that needs to be forgiven had tremendous effect on one’s life. For how can a wife forgive a husband who abandoned her and their four children? How can a son forgive a robber who also killed his father after divesting him of his earnings as a taxi driver, and eventually depriving a breadwinner for a family of seven? How can a brother forgive a rapist after destroying the future of his sister? How can a mother forgive his addict son who while under the influence of shabu for four straight days mistook her as just another woman and eventually raped her?
The Arabic countries still practice the Old Testament way of imposing penalty, such that a rapist’s genital is cut off, a robber’s hand that committed the crime is cut off, and so forth. But, is it enough?
The pain caused by humiliation and deprivation resulting from deplorable acts are deeply impressed in the mind and heart. And, most often we hear those who console the affected that in time the wound afflicted will heal in time, hence, “forgive and forget”. This remarkable act of forgiving and forgetting has been shown by Mrs. Corazon Aquino who is satisfied with the results of the trial as regards the assassination of her husband, the late Benigno Aquino. And, this despite the insinuations of interested parties that those put behind bars are just the lesser accomplices as the real perpetrators, the brains, are still out there.
It is not easy to forgive and eventually forget. And, generally, it takes a gargantuan effort to convince oneself to forgive an offender. There is always that big question why such a thing has been done, and almost always that nagging afterthought of the victims, “of all people, why me?” At this instance, self-pity pinches the emotion of the offended.
The maturity level of the individual’s emotion greatly plays an important role in the decision whether to forgive an offensive act or not. Fortunately, one does not need a college degree to be matured enough to forgive an offense. Another positive factor in this regard is one’s degree of humility which is the opposite of pride which then goes without saying that a proud person would certainly find it hard to forgive an offender.
Are we obliged to forgive? I would say, of course. We are not a perfect creation of God and therefore, cannot avoid offending others be they our blood relations or strangers that we meet on the street. If we cannot forgive others, how can we then expect others to forgive us? Remember the Golden Rule? It is, however, easier said than done: “Do not do unto others what you do not want others do unto you”, but almost always hard to do! For the philosophical – easy, of course for the saintly.
Does it need for an individual to be saintly to be always forgiving? Of course, not! The virtue needs a long time of nurturing before it is developed into something worthy of divine praise. Even Jesus Christ flared up upon seeing the sinful transactions outside the Temple. Did he give outright forgiveness to the parties concerned and felt sorry for what He did? No! Not even a poor fig tree was not spared by Him when he found it not bearing fruit at the time He was hungry, and with a single curse, caused it to wilt. But, somehow, perhaps, His utterance of forgiveness while dying on the cross could be a sweeping one and meant for all who offended Him. So, indeed, if we believe Him to be the Son of God, and He can forgive, why can’t we?
When we forgive others, we are replacing our feeling of hate with love, hence, the “negative” with “positive”. The two forces are vibrations that govern our daily lives. Have you ever noticed that more often, once your day begins with something not so nice, it affects you practically for the whole day which causes you to say “sira na naman ang araw ko!” (now, my day is spoiled again!).
Negative incidents can be your own doing or that of others that tremendously affect you: irritable nagging of your wife; being caught in the traffic jam on the way to work; being nagged by children for additional allowance before leaving the house; at the office, being told that what he has submitted the day before is not right, etc.
Negative incidents for the wives can be waking up to the crying of children who squabble for something; finding out that the money left by their husbands is not enough to cover the expenses for the day; being told by children about new expenses in school; newly-delivered bills for electricity or water; occurrence of blackout just when they have just started the pressing of clothes for the whole week, etc.
Instead of berating those that cause such irritants, one should replace such feeling with kind understanding. The mother of the squabbling children should understand that children really have the tendency to be rowdy; that with soaring prices at present, the students are not spared; that traffic jams are normal occurrences; that one should just take better note of the requirements of the boss for a better report next time, etc. By doing those, one actually forgives the parties responsible for such irritants.
Have you ever noticed that if you are not irritated, your mind is empty of apprehensions and such state gives you a feeling of lightness?
Positive vibration that result from forgiveness also heals – both spiritual and mental “sicknesses”. Non-denomination groups that sprung up like mushrooms all over the world swear to this power of positive vibration. But of course, they aver that before one could be cured, forgiveness should first be expressed by the “patient”.
Forgiveness makes us move on. With such act, we remove from our heart a heavy burden, thereby making our steps lighter. We cannot undo what has been done. And, as I have stated earlier, if we love Jesus, we should learn from His greatest act – forgiving!