On the list of most difficult prayers we pray as Catholics, the line in the Our Father where we pray “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” is certainly toward the top. Forgiveness is hard. It’s hard to do once, and even harder to keep forgiving someone who continues to hurt you.
Recently a listener called in to Father Simon Says™ to ask for his advice on how to forgive the same person for the same thing over and over again.
“I do everything I can think of doing – prayer, Mass, adoration, Rosary, Chaplet – and I’ll feel forgiveness,” she explained. “And then the person does the same thing again. It’s my mother, and it’s been going on for years. How do you keep forgiving for the same thing?”
Father Simon began by reminding the caller that she’s not the first person who has experienced this. Scripture tells us that Peter asked Jesus a similar question. Fr. Simon said, “Remember what the Lord said when Peter asked if he should forgive seven times. The rabbis would say forgive three times, so Peter doubled it and added one for good measure. But Jesus said no, seventy times seven times. And some manuscripts add ‘in a day.’ Even your mother hasn’t upset you 490 times in a day!”
The caller explained that she wants to forgive, and that her mother has a mental illness that makes her less culpable for the hurt that she causes. But she said, “On the one hand, I can forgive because of that, but on the other hand I’m human and it’s just like … ugh.”
Father Simon offered some advice based on his own experience, saying, “Just remember what the word forgive means. In Greek the word is aphiemi, it means to let go. And the fact that it keeps upsetting you means you haven’t let it go. … A wonderful trick that helps me in my own life is to take a deep breathe, inhale, and as you let go you say, ‘Jesus, I trust in You.’ It really does work, but you have to develop a habit.”
“Anger is a vice,” he continued. “And a vice is a sin that just gets hold of us and the devil uses a vice to devour. A habit of vice is only overcome by a habit of virtue. So, the next time your mother sticks the knife in and twists it, say ‘Jesus, I trust in You.’ And you’ve just got to get in the habit of it. Remember, a habit of vice is only overcome by a habit of virtue.”
Listen to the full conversation below: