Merridith Frediani shares her experience involving her struggle to forgive someone, as well as the advice she received from Sr. Miriam James Heidland and Fr. John Burns at the SEEK 2019 Conference. She gives an account of her journey from being unforgiving to finding the grace to forgive and heal.
How do I forgive someone who is not sorry for hurting me?
How do I forgive that person when he is still hurting others?
How do I forgive when I’m still angry?
I was blessed to attend the SEEK 2019 Conference in early January. There, amid 17,000 mostly college students, in Indianapolis, I continued my search for the key to forgiveness, trying to figure out how to make it happen.
I was hurt by a person recently and it resulted in a pretty big life change. My head knows that forgiveness needs to happen, but the hurt was heavy duty and the anger, ample. In the immediate aftermath, there were plentiful tears and a persistent mental fog. Months later, I was still rehashing and perseverating. At times, I believed the lies I was told and those lies spun into bigger lies. I started questioning my skills, my value and my worth. No doubt, the evil one was having a field day.
But God is good. He is so very good and if we let him, he takes such good care of us. God can take sinful occasions and bring beauty. He gently picks us up, tidies our soul and reminds us of his great love. God showed me the truth of what happened and surrounded me with people who love me. I began to heal and he began to teach. As I learned, he gave me gifts. If I had to go through it again, knowing what I know now, I would do it without hesitation. Sometimes we have to go through the dark to see the light more clearly.
A Closed Heart Is Unforgiving
But there is something unfinished. Forgiveness. I know I need to forgive this man. I know that forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation, and that I need to pray for him. But, boy oh boy, is that a slog through the mud.
So I attended SEEK 2019 with an ulterior motive. I knew that Sr. Miriam James Heidland and Fr. John Burns were going to be speaking on healing through forgiveness and I wanted a front row seat.
Before I even arrived, God started his work. One morning, at the junction of asleep and awake where God likes to talk to me, I heard him. He told me he wants me to forgive this person but not for myself—although it will do me a world of good—and not for that person. God wanted me to forgive the person for God’s sake. He reminded me of the sadness I feel when my own children bicker and the joy I feel when they enjoy each other. God told me he feels the same way with his children. Jesus told me that when I don’t forgive I am adding to the weight of the Cross, the heavy Cross that pushes him down, pressing on his battered, beaten body as he carries it under the hot sun toward the place where he will die for—not just the sins of the people living at the time or the people who already lived, but for all of us now.
For me. For my sin. In harboring this anger and withholding forgiveness, I am hurting my Lord.
Fr. John and Sr. Miriam James shared that forgiveness is heroic. They said we need to rise above that which holds us captive. They said anger at being hurt isn’t bad. It’s a normal and healthy response. It becomes a problem when it grows and leads to our hearts being closed.
You Can Be Free from the Burden
My anger scared me as did my desire for revenge. My head kept trying to convince my heart to act. Do something! Fix this wrong! Fight this battle! But I am not a warrior. I concocted possible scenarios and it left me feeling unsettled and frankly, frustrated, because I knew that revenge wasn’t the right choice even though part of me wanted it to be. As they said in their talk, revenge won’t take away the sorrow. It seems the only way to make the sorrow go away is to swim through it and that’s what forgiveness requires.
Sr Miriam James and Fr. John offered a process to start forgiving. They walked us through it and you can watch their presentation and try it out. They ask us to sit at the Cross with our loving Lord and the person who hurt us and confront what was done, because in doing so we begin to let go.
Forgiveness is not a sprint. Like anything of value, it takes time and patience with the process and ourselves. I want to be on the other side of this process. Can’t it to be over and can’t it stop adding to the weight of the Cross? I did not ask for this sorrow nor did I deserve it but Jesus didn’t deserve what he got either.
Here’s what I know:
I am not alone. Jesus has been and will continue to be with me. He loves me.
I cannot do this alone. I need Jesus and his grace to help me.
This is good for my soul. I have been given the opportunity to share in his suffering.
This can be done. This will be done. God’s will be done.
Give It to God
There are many of us walking around carrying this kind of weight. The weight of lies, deceit, anger, and desire for revenge that wakes us up at night; the weight of wondering if maybe we deserved what we got. It’s a burden we don’t need to bear. We can drop it and move on, lighter, healthier and closer to the One who loves us so very, very much. It doesn’t have to stay this way. God is calling us to him and he will, without a doubt, take this from us.
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Call out to God. He is waiting to help you forgive, like he was waiting for me at SEEK 2019.
You May Also Like:
Forgiveness in Belfast Northern Ireland (Jeff Cavins Podcast)
Forgiveness (Fr. Mike Schmitz video)
About Merridith Frediani
Merridith Frediani’s perfect day includes prayer, writing, unrushed morning coffee, reading, tending to dahlias, and playing Sheepshead with her husband and three teenagers. She loves leading small faith groups for moms and looking for God in the silly and ordinary. She blogs and writes for her local Catholic Herald in Milwaukee.