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 ...
I just found this on a search for forgiveness. I have no idea about the site.
Prayers for your family.
This sounds like either slander or calumny to me.
It’s happened in my life. And, yes, it was so difficult to forgive.
But now the person actually talks with me in a nice way — not a super friendly way — but being polite. (And this happened in my church family......ugh.)
Praying for you——
Try to keep the focus on Jesus.
Heard a very good thing on Mother Angelica’s Classics today-— put your hurts in a box and give it to Him. Also, give Him your heart and tell Him not to give it back! :)
Someone who did me grave financial harm a few years ago, the word is out that the same thing she did to me, her company did to her. She is now suffering what she put me through...
I found myself praying for her last night; I wasn’t aware that I had forgiven her until then.
Thank you for posting this topic. It is very timely and thought provoking.
Advent Blessings to you as you prepare your heart for the Christ, born in Bethlehem of Judea.
I so identify with your posts on this topic. And I love your tagline.
I tried to clear up something with someone who hurt me a few years ago. For my effort in trying to clear it up, the situation was made even worse.
There are some people I just have to separate from.I’ve had to do that only 3 times in my life. One was a childhood friend I knew for 40 years. The most recent are 2 in-laws.
For some I have to say “I am a Christian but I am not a doormat.” The most recent incident was as you wrote “motivated by deep malice,,,with severe and undeserved consequences.” People who hurt the innocent like that should be prayed for, but I don’t think God requires us to lie down and get walked on all over again.
Some scripture on this topic...
Matthew 6:14 “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”
Isaiah 43:18-19 “Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth.”
Philippians 3:13 “But this one thing I do, forgetting those things that are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.”
Yes, I’ve experienced deep betrayals from the very people who should have known better. It does leave one hurt and lost. I have struggled for years with the resulting hurt. I let anger and resentment live in me. It has been an active project to, first forgive them, and second to banish the resentment. It is very easy to forgive, in an intellectual manner, it is difficult from the emotional/spiritual manner. But is is absolutely essential for us to do this if we are to grow spiritually.
I think the point about praying for those who have injured us is excellent. If we have any opportunity to exhibit kindness, that helps. It may be forced at first. But as time goes on it becomes less so. The other party may not respond, but that is because their conscious (with the Holy Spirit) is bringing it to their attention that they have sinned and need forgiveness.
Also, it needs to be pointed out that we will not forget. We will not have a brain wipe like in the movies. This is so that we can learn the lesson. It may be that we need to remember the circumstances that led to the sin so we may not sin again. It may be to remember that the other person is a spiritually weaker person, and they will act in hurtful ways because they really don’t get it. For instance, in my family is an individual who continues to repeat the same errors again and again etc. They continue to put themselves in situations that lead to trouble, thinking they can “master” the situation. In this situation I have learned to just lower my expectations, and to not give any rope with which to hang them self. It is difficult, but we do need to learn the lesson.
After 16 years I keep telling myself I should not be getting this down right now. SIXTEEN years. For two years I worked at a concert venue. I was able to forget during the holiday season, because my mind was occupied. This year, I do not have that option. I am in tears, often, and really just want to pull away from everyone. It's only in the last few days that this has hit me like one of those anvils hits Wile E. Coyote.
Even wrote about that day on my blog. Once I got to the phone call from my godfather, I could not write anymore.
My question this morning was, if time heals all wounds, why do some hurt more, instead of less, with each passing year?
**We must choose to forgive. Its not something we learn to do or process over time.
Forgiveness is a choice and until we make that choice, healing does not begin.**
You are so right. There are several ways to go about this, but we have to learn it.
I always taught my children to say (rather than I’m sorry.) “Please forgive me.” I don’t think it was lost in their upbringing.
We as adults might do well to mimic that verbage also.
We are having a parish mission and last night the priest ticked off the words for wisdom in Latin, Spanish and some other language......meaning to savor, taste.
Can either of you help me here?
And there is the question and answer about forgiveness — How many times must I forgive?
Oh, my goodmess, thanks for sharing your story. Yes, time does heal things — through the grace of God — that is. But having salt poured into the wound certainly doesn’t help. Prayers for you.
As men forgive, so shall they be forgiven.
benignus est enim spiritus sapientiae et non liberabit maledictum a labiis suis quoniam renum illius testis est Deus et cordis eius scrutator est verus et linguae illius auditor
For the spirit of wisdom is benevolent, and will not acquit the evil speaker from his lips: for God is witness of his reins, and he is a true searcher of his heart, and a hearer of his tongue.
Seventy times seven times ...
So you can whack the SOB on the 491st time ... ;'}
From personal experience (and plenty of it), you don’t deal with it — God does. You can’t (we just don’t have the mental and emotional capacity to deal with some of it). Every time the thought pops into your head, you turn it over to God and go on. In time, you’ll find you can’t even frown over it. It goes away. At that point, you can actually pray earnestly for the other person and in time you might even understand why and be able to shrug it off. Then, go out and get active in something that makes you happy. It works. I give to charity, I work on campaigns, I find other people who fill the voids left by those loved and lost.
Seriously, there’s no use in trying to do it on your own. Some hurts and pain are too great. Some losses are too large. Some wounds require major miracles and, luckily for you, God is in the business of major miracles. How great is that?
Thank you. After reading that piece by the priest, I cried very hard at the truth of it and it has given me a great amount of peace. What wisdom. I have talked to pastors already but sometimes it just takes the right words.
Wonderful post. Yes, the healing of a hurt is in God’s hands.
Unfortunately, many of us forget to ask God for help in these things and try to do it ourselves. Like you said — it’s God that does the healing.
I liked what you said about going out and getting active in something.
Sometimes I think it is in the giving of ourselves that we forgive.
Look at the example of Christ washing the feet of the apostles, even Judas Iscariot, and know that Judas was going to betray him. Christ forgave him by being a servant to Judas. Powerful, very powerful image.
And then we have the image of Christ on the Corss saying, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
If we poor humans could just soak up these two lessons from Jesus Christ himself!!!
Bless you. Yes, sometimes it takes the tears to bring us to the reality of our part in these matters.
Thanks for the Latin. The Spanish should be very similar.
ha ha... well in this particular case, it is the sins of others and not my own.
“Sabiduria” is wisdom, and “consuelo” is counsel.
Don’t get me wrong. I no longer harbor animosity for these people, I hold no feelings at all for them, I am through with them.
There was one woman that I cheerfully would have killed, if I could have gotten away with it. Now, it ould be too much trouble to spit and cause her death, But if she neede help, she would not receive it from me.
She not not only lied and cost me some friends that I treasured, she cost me a subtantial sum of money, and endangered my wife’s life. It is that last that I can’t really forgive her for. I recovered financially, and friends that believe lies without a little investigation aren’t worth having.
My nwife is still alive, but she could have died, and this woman knew it.
here’s the thing. for 3 years, my stomach was tied in knots with rage. I finally got over that, I would not harm her but I do not wish her well.
It took a lot of prayer and effort to get that far. I live in Alabama, she lives in Texas, last I heard. I will never see her again, not willingly any way. She has made no effort to apologize, and never will. I know for a fact that she tried the same thing on another man, although he was smart enough to learn from my mistakes. The woman is a psychopath, and that’s the truth.
One thing that made it so hard was that I never could figure out her motive. She gained no advantage from what she did, and I have no idea how I could have offended her, so revenge on her part is out. What she did was just evil,
Wow, they really must have done something horrible.
I was discussing a similar topic with a friend. We talked of love, hate, betrayal and the need to move on. I shared my view that love and hate are just 2 sides of the same coin. The real opposite is indifference. If you can think of the person, see them on the street, and feel nothing, no anger, affection, nothing, then you have truly moved on. Most of the time, I can say that I really have no feelings for those who have harmed me. I mean no ill will to them. I just don’t let them get the better of me. Sometimes I feel a sense of pity because they really have no clue why they anger others so.
Thanks for your comments. If I still had to deal with the woman, I would kick her out of my life. Fortunately I don’t. And as a matter of fact, my life is much better as a result of what she did.
But it was the blessings of God, and the support of my family, and my own efforts that did it. That does not negate her malice
It was, but kicked up. If it had been just talk, it wouldn’t have been so bad.
I’ve gotten over the pain. I no longer care about this person. I have written her out of the human race.
The pain is gone, truly. But the scars remain. It’s only when the topic of revenge comes up that I even remember.