“But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.” (Luke 7:47)
Currently, the United States is in an election year, and the air is thick with calumny and vitriol towards political opponents. In other words, there is extreme hostility towards political opponents, whether that is between the candidates themselves or among the followers of these potential presidents.
Often times, those who are looking to damage the reputation of deemed enemies will bring up elements of their pasts. Instead of offering forgiveness for these offenses, the accuser will cling to a vengeance and wrath for the ignoble actions of this person.
While this may be clearly manifested in the political climate today, we also do this in our own interpersonal relationships as well. Those who are close to us may be the very ones who ultimately betray us, or somebody may take something we tremendously value away from us. In short, we can feel wronged by the actions of others around us, and may be inclined to take our anger out on them and seek revenge.
But keeping in mind what Jesus says in his parable today, forgiveness is the better alternative to this sense of bitterness and ill-will towards somebody. Though this is certainly the more difficult route to take, why is it that Jesus still preaches this?
Well, for starters, the path of revenge ultimately leads to the destruction of relationships, whether it is with the guilty party themselves or with the rest of the community involved. This wrath and vengeance, even in the case of the victim being entirely justified, can lead to a sense of isolation from the consequences of ending that relationship and others around them. To tie this into positive psychology, Marty Seligman’s PERMA model clearly illustrates the importance of healthy relationships in our lives. (Seligman, 2018). In fact, “People’s happiness depends on the happiness of others with whom they are connected. This provides further justification for seeing happiness, like health, as a collective phenomenon,” (Fowler & Christakis, 2008). Therefore, the happiness of an individual is in some sense dependent on the relationships and happiness of those around them. When even a single individual clings on to wrath and vengeance, this can not only be detrimental to the individual themselves, but to the happiness of those around them as well.
But inevitably, the actions of those around us will harm us, and we will also do the same to them. And so Jesus invites us instead to understand the power of forgiveness in our lives, whether that is by offering forgiveness to others or by asking for it ourselves. In the words of Jesus, those who have been forgiven for more their actions are more likely to offer it to those who wrong them. And so the next time you are wronged by an individual, remember all of the actions Jesus forgives us for on a daily basis, insofar as you only ask for it, even for some of the most distasteful actions. In the words of St. Paul himself, he laments “I am the least of the Apostles, not fit to be called an Apostle, because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am,” (1 Cor 15:9-10). By clearly seeing how egregious his past actions were before coming to God, he was able to ultimately strengthen his relationship with him more because he was in need of much more forgiveness. And by being forgiven himself, he was able to spread the power of forgiveness to those around him. Though oftentimes difficult, forgiveness can contribute to a heightened sense of well-being for the individual and for those around them. No wonder it is considered a character strength and virtue! (VIA Institute)
I hope these words are of some value to any of you reading it. It is the main motivation behind why I write anything at all! Please feel free to share any experiences on how forgiveness contributed to your own well-being or to those around you. In the meantime, I hope you are all doing well and staying safe!