How do I forgive

I am really having trouble forgiving 2 people in my life, one more than the other. I don’t want to get into specifics, but I will say that there was some emotional abuse and lies involved. Unfortunately, they are people I have to deal with on a regular basis. They are my son’s father and stepmother.

I want to forgive. I need to forgive. Jesus wants me to forgive. So why can’t I? I know the pain that I have is great and this really colors my spiritual and emotional life, not to mention my dealings with them. The anger is great, partly because what they did was wrong, partly because it hurt my son, and partly because it doesn’t even seem to affect them. It’s like they don’t even care. Or maybe they just don’t get it. You want to know how angry I am? I am looking forward to the day when this woman tells me that he has been abusing her and I can look at her and say “Why are you telling me? You knew he was doing this to me and you shrugged your shoulders. You even helped him. What made you think that he wouldn’t do this to you? You made your bed, now lie in it!” But that day may never come. One of us may die before then, or the two of them may be converted and he really changes. So, obviously, I can’t hold on to this. It’s making me sick inside, wishing that he would… you fill in the blanks-I’ve probably thought them all.

The one thing that I don’t want to do is put myself in a position where I am hurt again by them. Everybody gets hurt by someone more than once; I understand that. But since he is abusive I need boundaries. I don’t want to be friends, but I do want to show them God’s love. I heard once that you can be friendly, but not be friends. Isn’t that a lie? And I am not even sure what that means anyway.

I am sorry that you are having troubles. My prayers go out to you. Please let me dedicate this evening’s prayers that you will find clarity in this matter.

I am not a stranger to the situation that you describe, though I was never abused. But I, and my child were abandoned. He just left.

I felt ‘stuck holding the bag’ while he got on with life.

I am also probably not a good one to offer advice in this, because I don’t believe that true forgiveness (in it’s purest sense) can happen without a transgressor asking for forgiveness, and the transgresee giving it.

We can make peace with God, and offer our thoughts back to Him for Him to carry for us. He DOES NOT want it to consume us. In fact, it is bordering on sinfull for us to be consumed by our negative emotions. We are called to treat everyone with respect and charity.

I understand your negative feelings about the woman in your son’s father’s life. I can completely empathize. I also understand the “YOU JUST WAIT!!” But you know, we were that woman once, and I am so glad someone was able to look past the “just you wait” in my situation and embrace me in all my bad judgement and forgive me and help me anyway.

I have made peace with God in relation to the man that helped me create my daughter. I have not forgiven him, because to me forgiveness is something that actively happens between two people.

If someone approaches us for forgiveness, we are OBLIGATED to forgive them. We are Christians and we MUST offer that forgiveness just as Jesus forgives us.

But I do not believe that my making peace with all the negative feelings that I carried around for so long is the equivalent of forgiveness for that man.

For what would I offer him if he ever DID ask for forgiveness?

There are probably many people out there reading this who are shouting at the computer screen right now, or “tut-tut-tut-ing” me. Please do not necessarily take my advice, but just know there are people out here who know what you are going through.

And know that there is peace without a confrontation.

Sounds like a very difficult situation for you.

Are you praying for them? I know it’s difficult when they have hurt you so much, but remember that they don’t have Jesus in their lives or they wouldn’t be doing what they are doing. How sad for them not to know true Love, Mercy and Forgiveness. How sad for them not to know unconditional love. How sad for them not to know the True Joy of giving and sacrificing for someone else without expecting anything in return.

Prayer for them will soften your heart and allow forgiveness to enter your heart. Remember that forgiveness is as important to you and your soul as it is for them (hopefully someday they’ll appreciate it).

I have had two situations in my life where praying for someone has helped the situation. One was a boss who was very immoral, and I began praying for him. I also approached him about some of his behavior and told him how I expected to be treated and that I would not allow his tantrums, that I deserved respect. He apologized and promised to do better. Had only a couple more situations where he started to treat me disrespectfully and I just held up my hand and said “I won’t be treated this way,” and he stopped.

Another was with my brother and sister-in-law who are addicts. Eventually had to cut ties with them and tell them they needed to get professional help and until they would do so, I wanted no part of their lives or lifestyle and didn’t want my children exposed to it either. Unfortunately we are still estranged, but I pray for them everyday. It has softened my anger towards them and allowed me to forgive them.

I cannot imagine a life with Jesus, without His Mercy and Grace guiding me everyday. I often think “There, but for the Grace of God (truly) go I.”

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

[quote=Momofone] The one thing that I don’t want to do is put myself in a position where I am hurt again by them.
[/quote]

I’m not going to pretend to know what you are going through, k? But I do know this: If you hang on to your anger you are going to keep doing the one thing you said you don’t want to do. But its hard, I know, to get past the anger, or ignore it, or whatever, but it’ll continue to hurt you and your child too (they can sense so much about their parents, can’t they?) if you don’t make the conscious decision (that’s what it is I think…a conscious decision) not to dwell on the anger.

The advice to pray for them is good advice I think, although that can be almost more difficult than ignoring the anger (not that I would know of course…I’m perfectly happy :o ).

Anyway, I just wanted to tell you you’re not a bad person for the way you feel. But your anger doesn’t punish them, it punishes you and your child. In contrast, you prayers for them will actually benefit you.

Ask God to help you to forgive.
We all have times when it is difficult to forgive. On our own we are nothing. With God all things are possible. Pray to God with all of your heart. He will hear you and answer you when He see fit. Persist in pray to God.

FORGIVENESS IS POSSIBLE AND WILL BRING YOU GREAT PEACE!

Some of you are skeptical, but I have proof. I was taken and sexually abused by a man when I was in my early teens. This changed my life and pulled me into a bitter and sinful world which God freed me from. I lived with constant feelings of self-hatred, prejudice against homosexuals, a sicken stomach whenever I’d think about it, and anger at this man. I found myself running from life in many ways. One day I came upon a priest who really listened to my story and did not just send me on my way. He had me say a prayer of forgiveness for this person, the action, and myself everyday. Initially, I went through the motions. Then my heart gradually entered into it. One day, after several months of daily prayer, I found myself praying with alll my heart for this person…guilt was gone!..bitterness was gone!..self-hatred was gone! I was free!!! Today, I harbor no ill feelings toward this person and hope he has come to know the Lord and goes to heaven. This experience has allowed me to relate to people at much deeper levels than I would have without it. When I hear of abuse, I know their pain and trauma, and worry about how these people will become affected; without this experience, I could never have understood and feel for what this people have gone through at the level I do! I do not know how and strange as it may seem, I am actually very empathetic towards homosexuals and their struggles (not that I compromize our faith in any way!). Last year, I actually had the opportunity to minister to one of my students for a faith formation class I teach at church who approached me about her sexuality. **So, as you can see, forgiveness is really possible and with it comes a freedom that I cannot describe! **

Love and peace in Christ,
Bob

1 Like

MomofOne - I will pray for you too.

While I suppose all of us have dealt with issues of anger on one level or another, I won’t claim to know what you feel.

My only advice, which thus far has worked for me, is this: Take this to your confessor. I firmly believe that when we enter confession with contrition - including the firm desire to amend our lives - and we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to provide us with grace to begin again.

Maybe you’ve heard it a million times - anger only hurts the one who is angry. You say that they don’t seem to even care that what they have done hurt you. The anger and desire for revenge is keeping our Lord from working in you, and you don’t want that.

It took me confessing my anger at least three, four, maybe five times. And finally, while completing penance that fifth time - it hit me. And I truly did forgive.

These things take time and God knows that and He is willing to help us work through it. Find someone you trust and let all of this out - get angry about it - yell about what hurts - maybe in getting it out, you’ll be able to move on.

I’m no expert - just wanted you to know it is possible to move on - find those who can help you do that.

with prayers,
Kat

I hesitate to offer any sort of advice, because I have not been in your shoes, and I sincerely hope that such a thing would never happen to anyone. I am sorry that this has happened to you. It sounds to me like a very horrible thing to have to have lived through. It’s hard to understand why God allows such evil to happen, and consequently suffering on the part of the victims-except to somehow try to bring Good out of evil. By you finding it in your heart to forgive these people you are showing the power of God. I believe the best way to try to change someone or show someone the right path is through example, not pursuasion.

Since it is May 13, it reminds me of John Paul II. Today is the anniversary of his assasanation attempt. A man shot him 2 times, with the definate purpose of trying to end his life. He did not hold onto any resentment towards this man, or hatred, or ill feelings. He forgave him publicly, as soon as he was strong enough, and went and personally forgave him within 2 years I believe. Through John Pauls forgiveness and love for this man because he is a child of God- this man’s life and faith was changed. He also changed this great evil done to him into a tremendous good by the example he set on how to forgive for millions of people to see. Granted, he was our Pope, and soon to be saint- I don’t know how many people could do what he did, but it’s something to think about.

Holding on to resentment and hatred is not only not how God wants us to live, but also can cause many physical ailments. I will pray for you, that God will give you the grace to overcome these sufferings you have gone through, and enable you to in time forgive these people for the injustices they have done to you. Offer your sufferings up to Jesus. Give them to him, and ask him to soften your heart with his love.
God bless you.

[quote=beverly30]I hesitate to offer any sort of advice, because I have not been in your shoes, and I sincerely hope that such a thing would never happen to anyone. I am sorry that this has happened to you. It sounds to me like a very horrible thing to have to have lived through. It’s hard to understand why God allows such evil to happen, and consequently suffering on the part of the victims-except to somehow try to bring Good out of evil. By you finding it in your heart to forgive these people you are showing the power of God. I believe the best way to try to change someone or show someone the right path is through example, not pursuasion.

Since it is May 13, it reminds me of John Paul II. Today is the anniversary of his assasanation attempt. A man shot him 2 times, with the definate purpose of trying to end his life. He did not hold onto any resentment towards this man, or hatred, or ill feelings. He forgave him publicly, as soon as he was strong enough, and went and personally forgave him within 2 years I believe. Through John Pauls forgiveness and love for this man because he is a child of God- this man’s life and faith was changed. He also changed this great evil done to him into a tremendous good by the example he set on how to forgive for millions of people to see. Granted, he was our Pope, and soon to be saint- I don’t know how many people could do what he did, but it’s something to think about.

Holding on to resentment and hatred is not only not how God wants us to live, but also can cause many physical ailments. I will pray for you, that God will give you the grace to overcome these sufferings you have gone through, and enable you to in time forgive these people for the injustices they have done to you. Offer your sufferings up to Jesus. Give them to him, and ask him to soften your heart with his love.
God bless you.
[/quote]

Ever since I realized that I was holding onto resentment against these 2 people, I have wanted to follow John Paul 2’s example and forgive. He forgave someone who tried to KILL him; I’m struggling with people who HURT me emotionally. Shouldn’t be so hard, huh? But it is.

I want to thank everyone who has replied to my post. They have all made me cry because I know you’re right. And don’t get me wrong-I want to forgive. I hate being so angry. I think that it is compounding the problem that I have with his abuse. Let me explain. I learned in the classes I took on abuse that you need to not let it bother you. If you don’t react to it, the abuser has nothing to feed off of, much like not reacting to another driver who cuts you off and then flips you the bird. It’s about control and if they see that they can’t make you react, they’ll do one of two things-escalate their garbage or leave you alone. Because I am so angry, I can’t help but react, even to minor things. And that’s not good on so many levels. So, I want to and need to forgive.

Hi,

Boy, can I relate, Momofone! My divorce will be final in just a few days. For all I know, it’s all been signed and the atty “thinks” she called to tell me…

I have avoided hating the woman my former husband has been living with, mostly by absolutely ignoring her. She herself was not the cause of the breakup of our marriage, not at all, but it is still so hard to have another woman being in the “mom” role to my children every other weekend. My sister, who is herself a step-mom, insists that there is no way my children see this woman as a “mom” in any way, but I don’t completely believe that.

My biggest problem right now is forgiving MYSELF! I am quite certain that our marrige will be anulled, but have to deal with my own guilt - How could I have been so stupid to marry him, how could I have gotten into a situation that went so terribly wrong for my innocent children, why did prayers seem to have no effect on ME, let alone him, why wasn’t I able to be a better wife if that could have saved our family, and on and on…

I know, just as you do, that the hatred hurts me, not him, and in my case I’m more angry with myself than with him. I have been hearing about a local healing Mass and I want to go. Thank you for posting your question, as the answers have helped me, too. I’ll keep you in prayer!

God bless.

Bob - Thanks for sharing your story. It is a wonderful story of hope, courage, and the power of forgiveness.

“Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do!” Luke 23:34

Don’t do this alone. Take your anger with you to a church, or a monastery and place it on the table before the Father. Pray that the Holy Spirit will help you to understand the power of forgiveness. Do it in the context of confession. The mere fact that you are bothered by your anger is a sign that the Lord is very close, trying to tell you. “…If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23-24

Understanding will come, when He wills it, but he calls us to “ask” so that we may “receive”.

A very wise Priest once told me, “If you can’t muster up the forgiveness, at least pray for the wanting to forgive. That prayer will alleviate some of the anger and put you on the road to forgiveness”.
He was correct.

Anger in of itself is just an emotion, like happiness or sadness. Whether you have anger or not isn’t as important as what you do with that anger.

In order to keep our emtoions in their proper place, to keep them from dominating us, we need Love. I think the suggestion that you pray for those who have wronged you is a very good one.

You should also pray this prayer, “Jesus, help me to love them as much as possible. Help me to love them with* your* love.”

Like love, forgiveness is an act of the will. What you feel is anger and resentment. Feelings will come and go, but if you set your will to forgive these people, day after day after day, one day will come, when you no longer FEEL angry. The Lord said, “…forgivness should happen seventy-times-seven times.” If you literally forgave someone everyday for 490 days, I have great confidence you would finally forgive them for good.

[quote=catsrus]A very wise Priest once told me, “If you can’t muster up the forgiveness, at least pray for the wanting to forgive. That prayer will alleviate some of the anger and put you on the road to forgiveness”.
He was correct.
[/quote]

That priest was very wise indeed. Thanks for sharing that with us catrus.

Hopefully as good Catholics we can all forgive small things easily. When a difficult situation arises where it is harder to forgive, I have found that forgiveness comes in three stages for me.
First, I simply pray to God for protection from the person.
Then I begin to pray for the desire to want to forgive.
Lastly, I find that not only am I able to forgive but I am then praying to God to forgive the person and I begin to see the pitiful spiritual condition the person is in.
The three stages seem to happen naturally so I just keep praying and one flows into the other until I reach full forgiveness.
I don’t try to force the stages but allow God to guide me along the path to forgiveness.
My prayers are with you Momofone. :gopray:

With this thread selected for me to read, i thank you Bob for this input. Your ability to share deep hurts honestly touches my path in many ways. My abuses were marrying a man i was warned about, but refused to believe to be Gay. It seems he hated women very very deeply from his own sexual abuse from his mother from birth to 10 years old. His target was young/teenage boys. Unfortunately i was a cover to hide his sexual interests in his own studens he had in his own private school. If i was there, the light was not on him being alone with them. He also had a very bad upbringing, with a life of two parents torturing him by staying together. He learned to hate early in his life…especially women. I found that out on my wedding night. We had gone to his family cottage in the Maskokas on northern Ontario for two weeks. We were so far out in the woods, so far away from people, i had no idea where i was, plus i did not drive yet. It was two weeks of beatings, torture and rape. Once home, i mustered up the strength to sneak out to tell my parents. But i had another thing to concider. My period had not arrived as planned! After talking to my parents nurvously…i opted to not tell them. They had resolved to understand it would be hard, and that accepting this marriage was important. If they had only known! I endured this for another 3 years before i had a nurvous breakdown and simply understood, i can not help him, i must go with my child…he must not grow up with this. He will have a chance if i break this chain of abuse.

Funny, i thought i had forgiven him as a person. But if i still fear his presence, the dark, or if he might kill me…i have not prayed nearly enough on this topic, as i am not free yet.

It is easier to do this now, as our son from this union has recently passed away. I have a beginning of knowlege that he can not hurt me anymore…my son is gone now…to a much better and perfect father…the Lord!

[quote=Momofone]I am really having trouble forgiving 2 people in my life, one more than the other. I don’t want to get into specifics, but I will say that there was some emotional abuse and lies involved. Unfortunately, they are people I have to deal with on a regular basis. They are my son’s father and stepmother.

I want to forgive. I need to forgive. Jesus wants me to forgive. So why can’t I? I know the pain that I have is great and this really colors my spiritual and emotional life, not to mention my dealings with them. The anger is great, partly because what they did was wrong, partly because it hurt my son, and partly because it doesn’t even seem to affect them. It’s like they don’t even care. Or maybe they just don’t get it. You want to know how angry I am? I am looking forward to the day when this woman tells me that he has been abusing her and I can look at her and say “Why are you telling me? You knew he was doing this to me and you shrugged your shoulders. You even helped him. What made you think that he wouldn’t do this to you? You made your bed, now lie in it!” But that day may never come. One of us may die before then, or the two of them may be converted and he really changes. So, obviously, I can’t hold on to this. It’s making me sick inside, wishing that he would… you fill in the blanks-I’ve probably thought them all.

The one thing that I don’t want to do is put myself in a position where I am hurt again by them. Everybody gets hurt by someone more than once; I understand that. But since he is abusive I need boundaries. I don’t want to be friends, but I do want to show them God’s love. I heard once that you can be friendly, but not be friends. Isn’t that a lie? And I am not even sure what that means anyway.
[/quote]

Let me put myself in another person’s shoes: I have been one who has NOT been forgiven. I want to describe the pain for many who want to reconcile, but the other person is not really willing to forgive, though they may act as if they do. See below.

Continued from above:

okay, I had a freind who I met at a local Church. She was very Catholic and we became good friends, but at the time I was discerning to enter a seminary. Well, she and I shared many long phone conversations about God and saints and religious life over the phone. She really much looked up to me. Now I left to a certain religious order and things did not work out for reasons I will not get into now. But, I came back to my city, and she was a bit surprised, but we continued being friends. After a while, I began to see her as more than a friend INSIDE of my heart. Now, I did not tell her till oince when I just could no longer hold thiese feelings inside any longer. She seemed surprised, but then for some reason said she kind of always knew.
To make a long story short, she developed also friendships with certain people who were envious of my theological studies, and who were also involved in church, but one of the guys also had liked her and he was involved with her in various religious meetings etc. but took many opportunities to bad mouth me with her, and she bought into much of it, I guess because she basically had trouble seeing for herself, and always sought the opinions of people with all. She began to grow colder with me, and would not call me nor respond to emails. Every so often after months, I would contact her, and she would briefly talk, etc.
Lastly, recently something happened that severed our “friendship” even more: A couple of months ago she left to another State to work in a certain apostolate for the church, and here in my city, for one reason or another I became distenced a little from God, and almost fell in a certain situation with a woman: but nothing more than kissing happened. Now, I called my “friend” later that same week and in conversation I told her this experience. She was shocked and even scandalized and told me: “you out of all people with so much theology you know etc.” Then proceeded to give me advice about confession etc, which I took well. I even emailed her to tell her that I later had gone to confession, was doing spiritually great, and she emailed me back saying "that is good, and continue."
Continued below

Okay, now she is totally silent, and does not even at all respond to any email of mine. Why is it that people put people on a high horse, and when they fall out of grace for a short time, they see those same people they once admired as, well??

It is very sad and it really hurts that someone who I thought was a real friend (have known her for more than 4 years) suddendly de-values the friendship so much where she does not even respond to one email. Okay, I understand she looked up to me much, but don’t people fall at times, then repent? She SEEMS (it’s pretty obvious) to hold some grudge and anger and seems not to forgive, though she has not told me so. How is it possoble that a person as her who attends daily Mass, prays so much, but yet is so unwilling to recognize that we are human and fall at times? This really angers me, that I in turn will have to cut all ties to her permenantly as well. She does seem to have some hang ups as per her dad was unfaithful to her mom when she was younger, and later she was also resented at her mom for “not being there when she needed her the most” (the mom has told me this). Now, this “friend” also has told me she has commitment issues. I further think and the mom has too, that she is very afraid of trusting males.
The point in all this is my friend: NOT forgiving hurts the person who does not forgive, MORE. If a person does not forgive another, it’s usually because they don’t forgive themselves. Most of all it is so uncharitable and selfish, as per the fact that the person who feels not forgiven by one whom one thought was a friend, leaves the person feeling abandoned and more isolated than if that other person would have said: "all is well, don’t worry, you can pick yourself up and keep trying."
Friend, forgive them, and leave all else in God’s hands, let them know you care for them, love them and make it known, and they WILL realize and change in GOD’S TIME!!
But FORGIVE. Remember, at the end of time in judgement God will judge you on this.

I do want to forgive. But, I don’t want them around. He abused me, she lied about me and literally shrugged her shoulders when I told her of one incident of his abuse. There’s much more to this, but I won’t get into it because I am shaking with anger now.
I am so sorry for the loss of your friend. Try not to be too angry at her as from what you posted, she has serious issues from childhood that have colored her vision and she really can’t see clearly.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.