In this article I want to talk about reconciliation and mutual forgiveness. Some
people have a “Velcro personality” which means that all hurts stick to them. Others
seem to be blessed with a “Teflon personality” from whom all hurts fall off. Actually,
the Velcro personality and the Teflon personality are both trying to do the same
thing—each is trying to be happy. It doesn’t take much reflection to realize who
will be more successful at it.
We are born with a Velcro personality. It is part of how Original Sin affects us.
We are automatically inclined to hang on to hurts and disappointments. We are automatically
inclined to punish those who hurt us. We automatically seek our happiness by holding
grudges and pouting, by blaming others and punishing those who have offended us.
We punish them by words and actions, or by isolating ourselves aloof from them.
Remember, the Velcro people do what they do in an attempt to be happy. But no happiness
can be found from this source. The one they are punishing by not forgiving is themselves.
Justice does not heal the human heart, forgiveness does. Giving “what they have coming”
to those who have offended us gives some satisfaction to our desire for revenge,
but it doesn’t heal the hurt. The offence will continue to exercise its evil power
over us until we forgive the one, or the group, that offended us.
The first thing Jesus mentions as he begins his public ministry in the Gospels of
Saints Matthew and Mark is: “Repent! For the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In practical
life, repent means: Begin to change the direction in which you are looking for happiness.
The Velcro and Teflon personalities are both seeking happiness—one by hanging on
to hurts and the other by letting them go. The Teflon personality was not born that
way. They have done some hard spiritual work and allowed God to have his way in their
life. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will
be given to you besides” (Mt 6:33).
The Teflon personality has turned away from the sin of hanging on to hurts and the
joy and satisfaction it promises to bring, but never does. They have turned to a
different means of finding happiness. They have turned to the Kingdom of God. They
forget about their self-righteousness based on their being justifiably angry at the
offense received, and look in the direction of God for happiness. From God they receive
God’s righteousness. And God’s righteousness demands that they let go of their self
that has been hurt and is self-righteous in its hurt. God calls them to forgive the
offender. God’s righteousness demands we make forgiveness part of our life-style.
Of course it is hard. Rely on God. Keep trying.
Hanging on to hurts and letting go of hurts are things people do in their pursuit
of happiness. One is sinful. One is virtuous. Hanging on to hurts brings one the
satisfaction of pretending we are getting even. Letting go of hurts brings the happiness
of reconciliation with God, the freedom to be at peace with people, and, most especially,
the ability to eliminate the negative power hurts exercise over us.
Remember this truth: getting even or seeing justice done to the offender does not
heal the hurt in a human heart. Forgiveness does. The only way to stop the evil and
negative power hurt exercises over us is to forgive. So, therefore, “as the Lord
has forgiven you, so must you also do” (Col 3:13).
Has someone hurt you?
—An immediate or extended family member?
—A business associate?
—God, by allowing certainthings to happen?
It makes no difference where the hurt came from, whether it was intentional or not.
Ask God to help you forgive the offender, even if it is God himself. When we are
hurt we want to defend ourselves. One way we try to defend ourselves is to become
self-righteous. We think: “I am justified in not forgiving him/her/them because they
never said they are sorry.” Or “I am justified in not seeing, visiting or greeting
them because they hurt me and thus I am right in pushing them out of my life.” NO!
I am not right in thinking this way. This is not how God acts and so it cannot be
the right way for me to act.