"Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them
tight. Forgive your neighbor's injustice then when you pray, your
own sins will be forgiven."
Sirach 27:30, 28:2
If you haven't decided on a New Year's resolution, I have a
suggestion. For your own good, forgive everybody in your life, no
matter what they did or failed to do.
One of the hardest and most liberating things I have ever done
was to forgive. For much of my life, I carried a huge sack of
resentment from childhood. The older I got, the more resentments I
added to my collection, until the weight and smell of that huge bag
of grudges got so heavy and foul-smelling that it was making me
Worn out, I decided one day to find a way to rid myself of it,
once and for all. I would have ditched it sooner, but I made the
mistake of thinking that I had to have justice, or at least an
apology, before I could let it go.
Before I let go of it, I had to want to let go of it. And when I
wanted to let go of it, I prayed earnestly for help. I did not pray
for my offender to change; I prayed that I would change, and that I
would change my attitude toward what had happened.
My prayers were answered in stages. The first answer to my
prayer was to realize that taking offense was just as bad as giving
offense. I had to realize that my response to the one who offended
me had been as mean as the original meanness.
The second answer to my prayer was something I thought
impossible. After acknowledging the hurt, I apologized for my
withholding, and sometimes hateful, responses.
The third response to my prayer, even after two last-minute,
aborted attempts, was that I was given a chance to express my
apology and my unconditional forgiveness. I went into the
experience in knots. I came out walking on air.
I have told my story many times. The reason I tell it repeatedly
is because every time I tell it, someone is inspired to move toward
forgiveness. I found out a long time ago that there are many people
out there carrying soul-eating resentments. Fixated on their anger,
they rehearse their injustices and nurse their wounds, sharing them
with anyone willing, or unwilling, to listen.
They wait for that apology that doesn't come. They stick to
their guns, even though those guns keep shooting them in the foot,
over and over again. What they don't know is that, with God's help,
they can free themselves of all that self-inflicted suffering.
Orginally published in Fr. Knott's weekly column, An
Encouraging Word, which began appearing in his diocesan newspaper,
The Record, in 2002. "The Gift of Forgiveness" can be found
with other thought provoking articles by Fr. Knott in Affirming Goodness, now on sale in the