Forgiveness is making a choice not to hurt back
CHARLESTON—Forgiveness is not the absence of anger.
It isn’t a feeling of peace, either. Rather it’s making a choice to refrain from retaliating in any way against the person who caused the hurt and anger, said Father Scott Hurd. And people can make the choice to forgive even if they’re angry.
That’s good news for all the folks who get mad every time they think about a particular offense.
“It is possible to forgive someone you thoroughly dislike,” the priest said.
But it isn’t easy — it’s a process through which people must work. Father Hurd wrote his book, “Forgiveness: A Catholic Approach,” to give people “the encouragement to forgive and the hope that forgiveness is possible with God’s grace.”
“Forgiveness is such a central theme to our faith and our Lord’s teaching,” he said. “Life has presented me with the need to forgive, and the Lord has taught me some valuable lessons.”
During a recent book signing at Pauline Books and Media on King Street, he shared some insights with The Miscellany about the process of forgiving.
First, acknowledge anger and work through it.
“You can’t repress or ignore it,” he said. “You don’t want to get stuck in anger so it hardens into resentment.”
Sometimes, people want to withhold forgiveness in order to punish the other person, but holding onto anger is destructive. Quoting an old Chinese proverb, Father Hurd said: If you aren’t willing to forgive, be prepared to dig two graves.
So the crucial step is making the choice to forgive and turning it over to the Lord. People must also understand the process takes time.
Father Hurd said you may have to make the choice to forgive one particular offense over and over again. He added that God gives the command to forgive, but He doesn’t give a timeline.
The priest stressed that there’s nothing wrong with feeling anger; it’s a normal response to being hurt, and one may feel anger every time the memory surfaces. What’s important is making the choice to forgive each time.
Father Hurd noted that feeling angry is different than holding a grudge, which is a desire to see the other person experience the same pain we’ve felt; to see them hurt.
He noted that forgiveness draws parallels with the steps of grieving, such as: Denial — This can’t be happening to me; Bargaining — I shouldn’t have to forgive because…; Extreme anger.
Father Hurd said a person may have to process through the stages and repeatedly deal with anger before finding a measure of peace. He cautions that: “You may never have complete peace on this side of the veil.”
The priest said this is the first book he’s ever written. A former Anglican pastor, Father Hurd is married and has three children. He was received into the Catholic Church in 1996 and ordained in the Archdiocese of Washington in 2000.
He is executive director of the Archdiocese’s Office of the Permanent Diaconate, serves at St. Hugh’s Church in Greenbelt, Md., and is the liaison with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for the implementation of the Apostolic Constitution, Anglicanorum coetibus.