Today I am your New Year’s Resolution Counsellor. Five cents, please (it worked for Lucy Van Pelt, didn’t it?). After much prayer and deliberation, and even more procrastination (which is what I’m best at) I have discovered the absolute best New Year’s Resolution: forgive somebody.
Over the Christmas Season this year I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about anger, resentment and forgiveness. Apparently, I was thinking about exactly what He wanted me to think about, because God put the Catechism of the Catholic Church in front of me a few days ago, and I read about that annoying line in The Lord’s Prayer. You know the one I mean: “Forgive us our trespasses…(good so far, I like being forgiven)…as WE forgive those who trespass against US.” My whole Catholic train comes screeching to a halt on that second part.
In His sneaky and lovable God-way, Our Father has multiple reasons for making forgiveness a two-part rule. First and most obviously, the world is a better place if we forgive one another. Sitting across the table from someone is easier if you’re not mad at the person on the other side, whether it’s your boss, your spouse or the President of Russia. The more we let bygones be bygones the less likely we will blow the world to smithereens. Forgiveness is a very practical tool.
But God has another reason. It’s good for us. Forgiveness is more important for the well-being of the forgiver than the forgiven. Don’t believe me? Try this exercise. Conjure up a picture of someone you’re mad at and think about why you’re mad at them. Got it? Okay, now honestly, how are you feeling? Irritable? Uptight? A little sick to your stomach, or on the verge of a headache? Anger and resentment are poisons as real as hemlock or nicotine.
Now imagine how your subject is feeling at this moment. Chances are, whatever you’re stewing over isn’t on their minds, at least not right now it isn’t. One of the most frustrating things about resentments is that the “resented” often don’t have a clue that you are mad at them. So who’s suffering the most because of your resentment, you or them?
Let’s take this another step. With the object of your resentment in mind, say a prayer right now. Have a chat with the Almighty. Hm. Nobody home, is there? When I am angry at someone, I almost always find that those are the days I can’t make myself kneel down and pray. When I’m mad, I’m mad, doggone it! I don’t need her, or God, or anybody! So there, bleah!
Paragraph 2840 of the Catechism explains why anger messes up everything. “Love, like the Body of Christ, is indivisible. We cannot love the God we cannot see if we do not love the brother or sister we do see.” The idea that love is a single, indivisible thing is new to me, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. It explained why everyone suffers when one person is mad, why the world just feels out of alignment. And why I feel so alone when I’m angry.
So give yourself a gift this New Year’s Day. Conjure up in your mind that person who “wronged” you. Realize they are just as human as you are and forgive him or her. Ask God to take away your anger. And let it go.
And then have a Happy New Year.