“To err is human; to forgive, divine.”
–Alexander Pope, English poet
Forgiveness. It is that elusive act that we all believe we deserve yet have so much difficulty living it out in our daily lives. If you are like me, then you have been hurt by many people during your lifetime. The individuals or groups that hurt you most were often those whom you loved and trusted. Those are the most painful of the stings inflicted by deceit, physical abuse, scathing words, lying, and everything else that makes us sit back and wonder why and how someone could treat us in such a way.
As an inspiring author, it took me several years to write my first book. It was in many ways a personal journey as I retold stories from my life as they connected to the will of God. I stayed up late many nights as I carved time out of my busy days to complete my book. When finished, I sent out the manuscript to many publishers in hope of receiving word back that they chose to represent my work. But, as is all too common in the writer’s world, I was handed rejection after rejection. The comments were such as, “I enjoyed your book immensely, but we are inundated with submissions.” Unless you have a title or “credentials”, getting started in the world of writing can be a disheartening experience. This continued until one day I stumbled upon a small publisher that, up to that point, did mostly editing and cover work as she requested funding up front to actually have the books printed. After reading my words, she decided that my book would be the first that she would fund completely as publisher. After the cover was completed and we were getting close to publishing, she emailed me her “edited” version of my book. Instead of correcting grammar, she took it upon herself to revise whole chapters – in many instances changing the entire meaning of what I was trying to convey. We parted ways, knowing that neither side wanted to progress in that fashion. At that point, I decided to put the book aside and concentrate on other details of my life. Less than a year later, I happened to come across a promotion online for a book with the same exact title as mine – published by the same woman who I had recently parted ways. I was dumbfounded. It was as if someone punched me right in the stomach! I carried anger around with me for quite awhile as I tried to make sense of her actions. How could someone try to steal away the hard work and dreams of another person? I was trying to deal with this heavy burden…alone.
I finally took the time to sit and have a discussion, one-on-one, with the only One who could help me sort through it all. At first, I was doing all of the talking. Sure, I have heard the many bible quotes that directed me to turn the other cheek and forgive. Surely though, God couldn’t mean to forgive this person? He knew her heart. He knew her intentions. He wouldn’t forgive her, would He?
That’s when I decided that maybe it was time to listen. I imagined myself, as a parent, listening to my child as they rambled on about their situation as I patiently waited to give them my advice. When they finally took a breath, I was able to gently offer words of wisdom and support to both help them feel better and to discern what had happened to them.
So there I was, trying desperately to close my mouth and listen to the words of my Father. God speaks to us in many ways. In His written word, but also in the words of His faithful who He inspires by His Holy Spirit.
One day, I was given a message that I knew pertained to me. It was written by Archbishop Fulton Sheen from his work, The Power of Love:
“God loves everybody, not because everybody is lovable – but because He puts some of His own love into each person. That, in essence, is what we have to do: put some of our love in others. Then, even an enemy becomes lovable. If one loves, everything is easy, if one does not – everything is hard. As the smallest light beam is but a reflection of light and heat that are the sun, so all truth and all love have their origin in God. Love, indeed, makes the world go round – and takes it back to its ultimate source, which is God.”
As I gazed upon the crucifix, I took note of the details in the image of the crucified Christ. He had been betrayed, lied to, scorned, beat, whipped, and finally nailed to a cross and crucified. Yet, what was His message? What was His example? “Father, forgive them…”
Through it all – the torture and the intense pain and suffering…He asked that His persecutors be forgiven. I thought of the words that Jesus taught us as we pray to our Father. “…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Were these just empty words that flowed forth from my lips and heart? Or was I supposed to be living them in my attempt to pick up my cross and follow Him?
I eventually decided to self-publish my first work and let go of the hurt and the anger. I gave them to God. I asked Him to help that woman – to shower her with His truth. For if you know Him, and you take the time to allow His love to permeate your life, you will experience that beam of light as a reflection of God on the faces of those who don’t deserve your forgiveness…but you will love them anyway. You will recognize His love in others, in even the most unlovable, and it will change everything.
Go now to your Father. Ask Him to allow you to see His love in the living souls He created. Then be His reflection as they will see His love in you.
Geno Capone is author of God Matters, In Everyday Life. More information about Geno and his work can be found at genocapone.wordpress.com and genocapone.com.