Skip to comments.How do I deal with pain from the past? (About Forgiveness) [Catholic Caucus]
Posted on 12/01/2010 11:58:49 AM PST by Salvation
Q: The truth is that we cannot remain prisoners of the past; people need a sort of healing of the memories so that past evils will not come back again. My question arises from this quote. HOW, HOW do I make it so that the past evils not come back, when the Hurt is there. The Mistrust is there?
A: This question is relevant for all of us, because all of have wounds from the past, whether wounds caused by our own sins, or by others whose sins affect us. Often, a vague understanding of how the healing process happens can cause frustration, and that can distract us from following Gods lead on a day-to-day basis, seriously hindering our spiritual growth.
Standing on the Right Foundation
In the case alluded to by this question, the origin of the past wound seems to [be] with someone else. The questioner has been hurt and, it seems, betrayed. That reality is inhibiting them from hoping that the future can ever be truly joyful, healthy, and fruitful. The pain and the fallout from the past betrayal has created an impenetrably black horizon, or so it seems.
The same experience can result from ones own sins and betrayals. Having fallen over and over again, having sinned grievously in relation to a crucial relationship or responsibility, or having culpably missed a God-given opportunity these failures can sap hope and vitality as much when we commit them as when we suffer them.
In either case, God wants to pierce the dark horizon with his unconquerable light. And he not only wants to, he can. God is both all-good, and all-powerful: And the light shines in darkness, a darkness which was not able to master it (John 1:5). We must consciously return to that conviction of our faith when we run up against this painful situation. In prayer, we should express our faith in Gods goodness and omnipotence, and we should also express the depths of our sorrow and pain. Look, for example, at Psalm 32 (for situations in which we are the ones who have failed), or Psalm 22 (for situations in which we are suffering because of the sins of others). This is the foundation of supernatural hope: We know, by the sure knowledge of faith, that the hurt and mistrust we experience now is, in Gods plan, only a short part of the story, not the end of the story.
Having taken our stand on that foundation, God will usually roll back the darkness in one of two ways.
Two Paths to Heal Past Wounds
First, he can dissipate the darkness directly and quickly. This happens. Sometimes he grants an extraordinary grace in which the battered heart is renewed almost as soon as it has been wounded. A memorable example of this was seen in John Paul IIs visit to the prison cell of his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca, in 1983, almost as soon as he was released from the hospital. Later, the Pope also greeted and embraced the assassins mother. The common and oppressive and in this case even justifiable darkness of anger and vengeance never even had a chance to take root in the pontiffs heart. Certainly, John Paul IIs long life of prayer and penance had created a spiritual maturity that allowed Gods grace to act quickly and decisively. But even for less mature Christians, God in his wisdom sometimes grants quick release from darkness and hurt.
Second, and more frequently, God performs the healing gradually, and he allows us to be active participants in the process. In this case, the spiritual wound, like a serious physical injury, requires time and treatment. The treatment takes the form of grace obtained through prayer and the sacraments. We not only need to ask for Gods healing in prayer, but we need to learn to reflect deeply and meditatively on the example of Christ this is commonly called mental prayer. At the same time, we need to approach the sacraments of confession and the Eucharist frequently and with supernatural confidence.
When God chooses to follow this second path, we usually face a couple temptations. In the first place, we become impatient. We just want the healing process to be over already! And secondly, we can begin to rebel against God by refusing the treatment, through giving up on prayer and distancing ourselves from the sacraments. But if God chooses to lead us along the path of time and treatment, he has his reasons. He will use that path to heal other wounds too, wounds we dont even know we have. He will use it to help us grow in virtues that we dont even know we need. Throughout this long and painful journey, in other words, God is coaching us in hidden ways, helping us fulfill the dream for our lives that he has always had, even since before he formed us in the womb. Along the way, its helpful to keep St Peters dictum in view: But one thing, beloved, you must keep in mind, that with the Lord a day counts as a thousand years, and a thousand years count as a day (2 Peter 3:8).
A Couple Practical Tactics
I cant finish without mentioning two very practical tactics we can use to cooperate with Gods time and treatment: forgiving and giving. Forgiveness takes place in the core of our being, in our will. If someone has wounded us, we forgive them by praying that God absolve them from their sin and lead them to heaven. If you wish someone would go to hell, you have not forgiven them. This spiritual forgiveness can coexist with a lot of emotional pain, resentment, and anger. Those emotions reside in a more superficial part of the soul, and they will gradually diminish, especially if you begin to pray for the person who has offended you. On the other hand, if it is ones own sins that are causing the darkness, this forgiving step takes the form of accepting Gods forgiveness. This acceptance takes place at that core of our being, and can also coexist with tricky emotions. But in our hearts, we know that Gods mercy is infinite, and infinitely capable of forgiving our sins: Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool (Isaiah 1:18).
Giving is the second tactic. It involves focusing our energy on living the here-and-now as God would have us, in spite of the pain, darkness, and interior storms. Each moment, we know pretty well what Gods will is for us: being faithful to the normal, everyday responsibilities of our lives, whether its washing dishes or preparing for a board meeting. By giving ourselves to these duties with a spirit of faith, and doing so because God wants us to and as God would like us to, we invest less energy in the past, the source of the darkness. Its like moving forward under a cloudy sky knowing that the sun is still shining above the clouds. In other words, we can still make a decent effort to do all the good we can do here-and-now, even if the here-and-now happens to look a bit like a shipwreck. And doing good is the best way to outsmart evil: Do not be mastered by evil, but master evil with good (Romans 12:21).
Yours in Christ, Father John Bartunek, LC, ThD
“There are few problems that cannot be solved by the suitable application of high explosives.”
Sometimes, old hurts come back during the holidays.
Contemplation and Prayer Ping!
I’ll opt for God’s healings — I doubt that it’s the explosive kind, though. Much more the gentle and slow kind of healing.
This is a tough one, especially where families are involved.
**This is a tough one, especially where families are involved.**
Absolutely. Another FReeper requested an article on this subject — so that’s why I am posting it.
Even in my own family, it applies. I keep praying and praying.
Outstanding article, Salvation! I was going to highlight a sentence or two that were my favorites (and comment), and then I realized I’d be highlighting the whole article. Very, very beautiful post. Does Fr. John contribute to the site often?
We must choose to forgive. It’s not something we “learn” to do or “process over time.”
Forgiveness is a choice and until we make that choice, healing does not begin.
Is it hard? You bet it is. But we are all sinful by our very nature, since our early ancestors got themselves kicked out of the Garden of Eden. But we must walk through our lives with the full realization that God is watching how we do things down here.
Ephesians 2:10 — For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
When forgiveness remains an obstacle to pass in order to get nearer to God’s comforting embrace, we need to remind ourselves that some people go all through their lives without ever having been challenged to choose to forgive someone.
I remember memorizing a poem when I was a little girl and it has helped enormously when I am confronted with people who need my best wishes, even forgiveness. It goes like this:
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flaut
(He) drew a circle that shut me out;
But love and I had the wit to win,
We drew a circle that took (him) in.
Insert other person’s name where the brackets are.
And in that spirit of love for someone is a prayer for that person’s well-being.
After all that, if forgiveness is still muddled in our own pain and suffering, then we need to bring that to God in prayer and ask for help in increasing our ability to make the choice to forgive.
— Jane Reinheimer
Sorrow and confession.
You bring up a good point. Humor can lift emotional burdens and bring relief from bad memories.
Just for today, I’d rather hum “Grandma got run over by a reindeer” than brood about bad memories from Christmases past.
Resort to the high-explosive method sometimes creates more problems than it solves.
A certain wisdom is needed; prayer helps.
I’m a Christian, but some doctrines are difficult. I’ve always had a lot of difficulty with that “vengeance is mine, saith the Lord” thing.
That being said, I generally don’t take vengeance, but it takes me a while to get over the hurt, and even more to get over the fact that I didn’t even the score.
But eventually I do. that doesn’t, however, mean that I will ever accept that person as a friend again. does that mean I haven’t trulyl forgiven them?
If so, I’ll just have to answer to God. But if they want forgivenss from me, and I don’t think most snakes ever do, then they will have to find a way to make the past right.
God does not forgive sin without repentance and atonement. Does He require a different standard from us?
I’d like to hear some thoughts on this, because, as I said, I have a lot of difficulty with turning the other cheek, even though I generally do it.
You just need more practice, Chesley.:) The more you forgive, the easier it gets!
God bless you from the bottom of my heart for posting this. I am going to print it up and hang onto it. I have been having so many problems with my family. In simplest terms, nobody is a Christian in my family. My son has gone the way of his agnostic wife and is now questioning his faith (we brought him up in a strong Christian home). She was raised Roman Catholic but has turned her back on her faith.
There are no other believers on any side. It is very sad and increasingly, I am finding it very painful having to deal with people who are lost - deeply lost - in lifestyles of homosexuality and alcoholism, to name a few.
I have been praying for years. Oh well...
Well, I appreciate your humor.
Laughter is a gift from God.
Id like to hear some thoughts on this, because, as I said, I have a lot of difficulty with turning the other cheek, even though I generally do it.
Read Psalm 22. It’s all about Christ. Read Spurgeon’s commentary on the Psalm.
Treasury of DavidPsalm 22
... Charles H. Spurgeon ... this particle of restraint, “his,” in “the presence of all his people,” is in Psalm 22:25 ...
Think on a couple things.
1. The sinfulness of sin. As long as we make light of sin, and we can do that without realizing what we are doing, we will find it hard to forgive offences.
2. Contemplate this: What if any of us really got what we deserve?
“Let the words of my mouth, and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, my Rock, and my Redeemer.”
The Lord has given us the weapons, in His Word, for getting victory in these battles.
We don’t forget. The sting is removed. Memory makes us wise, and equips us to comfort others going through the same
struggles. No experience is ever wasted.
I am old. I learned these things in the trenches.
I always thought that God has asked us to repent and ask for forgiveness and that he is “faithful” to us. Meanwhile, though, there is the Lord’s prayer where we ask God to forgive us AS we forgive others.
I heard a good sermon the other day. Basically, it was that we are required to forgive but that true reconciliation cannot take place until the person who has inflicted the injury repents and asks for forgiveness.
I am struggling mightily with this myself. I have always been a very forgiving person but a couple of people in my husband’s family injured us in a most egregious manner. We are suffering financially and I am suffering emotionally. For some reason, it just took everything out of me, so I’m having all kinds of health problems.
It is hard to forgive when you are still enduring the suffering. I think it is easier to forgive when one is out of the situation. Also, I think people who say you must forgive often have no idea how hard it may be. I used to be one of those people, but now I realize that while I might say it, it would be so many words.
I just keep asking God to help me forgive and do it for me. I don’t think I can do it by myself.
Don’t know if I helped you at all but that’s my story.
Believe me, I’ve had plenty of practice. At least in getting over the pain.
don’t get me wrong, these have not been trivial offenses. I’m always eager to believe a little talking will clear up a misunderstanding. People can be selfish, thoughtless, oblivious, careless, even uncaring. I have no problem forgiving them, even forgetting the offense entirely.
I’m talking about acts motivated by a deep malice. Let me call it what it is, back-biting with severe and undeserved consequences.
Well, I’d say, just from experience, that even the ugliest of the ugly infractions need to be forgiven. I’ve got a sister ... well, I won’t go into it, but remember, the people that hurt you the most are the ones that are really hurting themselves. Forgive them in your heart if they don’t ask for it on their own (also I think Confession is really good in this regard) and then pray for them if you can ... that’s what I’ve done, and it’s taken a lot of pressure off of me and is no longer a distraction like it used to be, so I can live my life with more joy ...
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.