That’s the usual line many people use when they want to justify their reaction and even their attitude and behavior of anger, if not of hatred or despair, toward a certain person or event.
They usually say that they were mistreated, misunderstood or prejudged, etc., and so they feel they are entitled to react that way. Things get worse when such reaction and behavior become extreme and permanent, forming all sorts of prejudices, biases and closed-mindedness. We have to be most wary of this danger.
We naturally have our initial and spontaneous reactions to anything that can happen in our life. We can hardly control them. They are quite raw. They are reflex reactions that definitely need to be purified and set in their proper context of our real dignity as persons and children of God.
We just have to realize that while our reactions are always shaped somehow by some immediate or proximate causes, in the end our reactions need to reflect that we all come from God and should reflect the attitude, reactions and behavior that God has toward all of us who have our share of defects, limitations and sins themselves.
That’s simply because we are God’s image and likeness. How God is, as shown to us and empowered in us by Christ in the Spirit, should also be how we ought to be. We are reminded of this important aspect of our life in that gospel episode where Peter asked Christ how many times he should forgive a brother who had offended him. (cfr. Mt 18,21-19,1)
Christ responded by talking about a certain servant-debtor whose huge debt was forgiven because he appealed to the king. The king eventually forgave his loan out of compassion. But when this servant-debtor could not forgive another servant of his loan, the king punished that servant-debtor severely.
“You wicked servant!” the king said, “I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?” We should learn how to be always forgiving of others just as we all need forgiveness from God.
Let’s remember that with God, mercy has the last word. It is the highest form of charity as shown very vividly by Christ who, while still hanging on the cross, offered forgiveness to those who crucified him.
We have to make a shout-out for the need to develop in us the virtue of mercy so we can be forgiving of everyone, irrespective of whether one deserves it or not. Christ gave a clear indication of this need: “Forgive and you shall be forgiven.” (Lk 6,37) He reiterated this injunction when he said: “For if you will forgive men their offences, you heavenly Father will forgive you also your offences. But if you do not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive your offences.” (Mt 6,14-14)
It’s clear therefore that we can only be forgiven if we also forgive others. This injunction is meant for everyone, and not only for a few whom we may consider to be religiously inclined. That’s why when asked how many times we should forgive, he said not only seven times, but seventy times seven, meaning always.
Being forgiving even to the most undeserving person is the highest form of charity precisely because charity is always a gift. The more gratuitously given it is, the more charity grows in us. The more we become Christ-like, God-like.*