«He who forgives an offense seeks love» (Proverbs 17:9, RSV).
ANA GREW UP in a completely dysfunctional home. Every day she was witness to difficult conversations, hurtful and rude words, and mistreatment and violence. Every time her father got angry, she had to dodge the objects that flew through the air and turn a deaf ear to the phrase he used to refer to her: «the illegitimate child.» Not a drop of paternal love spilled on Ana in her whole life; not one, ever.
Where was her mother to defend her? She was working at all hours to be able to pay for the education of Ana and her brother. She left the house early and returned late at night. That whole family situation made Ana grow up with great resentment toward her father, which she wished to overcome even as she was a young girl. She was conscious of the fact that she needed to find a way to forgive him. However, she could not find it.
When she began to work, Ana used part of her resources to visit a psychologist every week, even though she had to travel a long distance to do so. The psychologist offered her valuable help and wise spiritual advice, but even so, Ana was not able to make the leap to forgive her father. She simply decided to continue praying and working on her personality while trusting in God.
One day, Ana’s father was diagnosed with a degenerative disease, and for that reason he spent many years confined to a bed. Seeing that man suffer so much, Ana learned not only to forgive him, but also to love him. She was able to learn and understand many things about the love of her parent: he had been a street child because of the death of his mother; he had had to work very hard simply to be able to eat; he had used violence in order to be able to have a place to sleep every night; he had taken refuge in alcohol; and there were who knows how many other experiences that he never recounted. Ana was finally able to forgive completely, feel free, and grow as a Christian.
Forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a decision. When you decide to forgive, God makes you feel free and helps you to understand the many reasons why we should not hold a grudge. Forgiving those who have offended us identifies us as daughters of God and bearers of an incredible witness. And if in addition to forgiving, we love (we respect, treat well, pray for) the person who hurt us, we will be walking on a still higher path. Let us choose this second option.