Written by: Kevin MacDonald
No, I’m not talking about weed killer or some other chemical that can damage our health. I am talking about nursing resentments and failing to forgive.
I once heard an evangelist on the television say, “Having resentment towards someone is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” How true. When we hold on to resentments, gripe about our unfair burdens, and fail to forgive those who have harmed us, we damage ourselves and those around us. We allow ourselves to become victims over and over again. The hurt inflicted on us or those we love cannot be forgotten. Try as we might, we cannot forget an event that happened just because the information retrieved is painful. God gave us memories and intellect. We are not like God in this respect. When God forgives, God forgets. We have a forgetful God. How marvelous! Our sins, when confessed, are plunged into the deepest part of the sea, never to arise again—unless we drag them up.
The same is true when someone unjustly harms us. If we nurse the pain and change our expressions whenever that person’s name is mentioned; when we steel ourselves and harden our hearts, then we perpetuate the original crime. Of course, this hardness most often hurts the people around us – our family members who misinterpret our coldness, friends who cannot break through our defenses, and educators who sense our distraction and often our disinterest. The plank of un-forgiveness even blinds us to our sins and failures. We end up hurting ourselves and others even more than the original offense hurt us. We neglect Jesus’ command to “forgive those who trespass against us,” so that we ourselves can experience total forgiveness.
Jesus is victimized but never the victim. It is not extraordinary that he died a violent death. Many people die by violence every day. It is not even extraordinary that he gave his life freely to his executioners. Even if he had wanted to escape, it would probably be only a matter of time before he was caught. What made our Lord’s action so amazing was that he chose to die without resentment, without making anyone feel guilty about it: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Lk. 23:34) Jesus chose forgiveness over bitterness and challenges us to do the same.
The challenge of becoming spiritually mature is to give ourselves over to love, duty, and service without any resentment. This transformation can only occur through prayer. Again, Jesus leads the way. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he struggled with his Father’s will. He loved his life and asked that “this cup be taken from me.” (Mt. 26:39) Yet, through the power of prayer, he was able to surrender his will for the will of the Father. It was not out of obligation, it was love.
When we can achieve the same motivation in our lives, for example, attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, visiting the sick and homebound members of our community, or merely attending to our regular duties in school, at work or in the home with consistency and love, we are following in the footsteps of our Savior.
When we find ourselves opening up old wounds, it is time to get on our knees. Jesus leads the way to freedom of the heart and true joy. Perhaps weed killer is needed, not to drink, but to erode resentments through the power of love.