The Virtue of Forgiveness

By Engr. Carlos Cornejo

“Living a life of unforgiveness is like driving your car with your parking brake on.  It causes you to slow down and lose your momentum.  And you end up tired and worn-out.”  (John Mason) Holding a grudge is like having a termite inside you.  It will little by little eat you up until it resorts to revenge.  And revenge is a great deceiver.  It is supposed to settle the anger inside you but it only makes things worse.  It looks sweet, but its fruit is bitter.  Revenge will never give you peace only justice does.  It always costs more to revenge a wrong than to bear it.

We often hear of murder and killings in the news of because of some unsettled “grudge” that one party had over the other because of some name calling or one person got insulted over something.  Some can’t get over an offense because their pride in the guise of “honor” or “reputation” has been tainted, so it has to be somehow restored.  Many times, the offending party would not acknowledge their offense.  Offended party then gets more angry and eventually resorts to revenge.

In any conflict, if the offended party just knows how to forgive then there will be peace.  Without forgiveness, life will be governed by an endless cycle of resentment and retaliation.  If you have been the offended party and you are waiting for the one who offended you to say sorry but would not do so, the right response is still to forgive.  But what if the offense is too grave, or criminal in nature?  Then we should let the rule of law render justice.  If he or she has to be imprisoned so as to protect society itself from further harm, then we should apply this virtue.   The person has become a danger to society and to himself, thus he or she needs to be restrained and be reformed. Not to do so would be a sin of omission on our part for failing to correct others on a grave matter.  But nevertheless, we forgive.  Forgiveness can go hand in hand with justice.  We can seek justice without being outraged and hating the person who wronged us.

I know of a story for example in Mindoro many years ago of a politician whose two sons were murdered by his political rival.  The father of the boys is a devout Christian but he wanted to strike back.  He was advised by his brothers in the community not to do so telling him, “Our immediate response as followers of Christ is always to forgive.  We let the authorities serve justice but we always have to forgive.”

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”  Our Lord Jesus Christ made it a requirement to forgive our fellow humans before we can be forgiven by God.  It is rightly so because if we don’t know how to forgive, that means we don’t have the concept of mercy in our hearts.  If we don’t have mercy in us, then we would not ask mercy from God or from others when it is our turn to ask for mercy.  Thus, it was a brilliant move by God to require us to be merciful on others first so as to acquire mercy from God.  This was clearly illustrated in the story of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:21-34).  The king forgave the servant when he felt pity on him who was about to be sold along with his wife and children in order to pay for his debt.  The Gospel says the servant fell down, did homage in pleading the king to be patient with him while promising to pay the debt in full.  When the king felt pity and cancelled all his loan, a little detail we could notice was that, the servant never said a word of gratitude to the king after this huge favor.  It was a sign that the servant never really had the spirit of mercy in his heart.  Thus, later on when it was his turn to be merciful to his fellow servant who owed some money from him, he had none of it to give.  That’s why the master cancelled his previous mercy for this wicked servant, and have him tortured until he was able to pay back what he owed.