I do not always find forgiving easy. Indeed, I sometimes find it a real struggle. Yet I know that if I am to follow the teaching and example of Jesus, I must forgive everything, always, and unconditionally. This is, of course, only possible through the grace of God.
Let us look at the teaching of Jesus and the New Testament. Jesus taught us to pray: ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors’ (Matthew 6:12). We are to forgive ‘seventy times seven’ (Matthew 18:22), which means we are to forgive indefinitely. And Jesus gave us the perfect example by forgiving those who put him to death: ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’ (Luke 23:43).
There is also a beautiful passage in St. Paul: ‘As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.’(Colossians 3:12-13).
We are the first victims of our unforgiveness. When we do not forgive, or in so far as we do not forgive fully, we do not experience the peace and joy which Jesus wishes to give us. Moreover, unforgiveness, which is a spiritual sickness, can also affect our physical health. Statistics show us that during the eighteen months after the departure or death of a spouse, when there can be much unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment and anger, people are considerably more likely to get cancer than at other times.