Human beings love imperfectly and, in the process of loving, often hurt one another. Not unlike physical wounds, wounds of the heart may or may not heal. In fact, deep hurts are notorious for festering like gangrene. Moreover in the injuries of the soul, both the wounder and the wounded suffer. The victim seethes with anger and resentment when he or she has been hurt and the seed for retaliation or revenge is planted. A poison has been infused and it takes on a life of its own. Every recollection of the wounding incident, every flashback of the perpetrator fuels the flame of hatred. The gap between the two persons slowly grows into an unbridgeable abyss. Notwithstanding there are those psychopathic individuals who hurt others intentionally and with malice, the wounder caught in the relational rupture does not go unfazed. Guilt and regrets rage in the same intensity as anger and bitterness in the wounded. He or she is trapped in a unceasing vacillation - “should I say sorry?” vis-a-vis “what if he won't accept my apology?”.
Neither party in a relational abyss lives joyfully; each is prone to lose peace and lose sleep. Unforgiveness has been associated with poor physical and mental health as demonstrated by scientific studies. Refusal to forgive is a form of incarceration - friends turn to become fellow prisoners. Is there a happy ending to this human tragedy?
The late Lewis Smedes told a fable in his book, Forgive and Forget (1984, Harper Collins, NY, NY) about a righteous man whose wife had hurt him through adultery. Instead of throwing her out, he decided to punish her through his fake pardon and righteous mercy. However his fakery did not sit with heaven well and an angel was assigned to drop a pebble into his heart every time he indulged his hatred towards his wife. Eventually the weight of his laden heart became too much to bear and he pleaded for mercy from the angel. “You need magic eyes,” said the angel, explaining that the only cure was to learn to see his wife not as one who had betrayed him but as a woman who needed him and as a woman who had sought to love him. Out of desperation, the righteous hating man relented and he began to feel his burden lifted one pebble at a time. It had taken a long time but eventually the gulf was bridged and they began again a journey into their second season of humble joy.
I have been wounded by friends and am guilty of having hurt people whom I care for deeply. In both instances, my heart became a prison in which my joy was locked up and I carried a burden of perpetual agony. I have tried feebly to ask for and look through magic eyes. Many of my heart's pebbles have been removed; I am praying for the courage and humility to allow God to remove the rest. I have found the secret to be free - it is forgiveness.