I recently posted the following question in our community: what is the number one thing you could do today to show mercy toward someone who hurt you? What surprised me was not the answers I read from other members, but my own.
I had to think about this question for a minute. Not only was I feeling that the possibilities were restricted by physical distance, like living in different places, but I also wanted to choose something I would actually do; otherwise, the question-and-answer process would be a waste of time.
Finally, I didn't want to choose something that would lead to moping. I wanted to follow through with showing mercy and experience joy on the other end.
So after a minute or two of thinking about all of this, I decided to pray for someone who hurt me to receive blessings from God. Now this would certainly be challenging for me since the action would be empty if I didn't actually pray from my heart, but I knew that if I could do this, I would be showing mercy as God wants, and also opening myself up to a new and incredible opportunity for growth in my spiritual life since I don't normally pray for people who hurt me.
So I did it. I prayed for one person who hurt me to receive blessings from God. And I meant it. It was hard, but I meant it. Straight from the heart.
The result? A lot of resistance inside as I did it. I think this is the first experience I've had where I can actually say I felt like I was "dying to self," as some people say. Well, maybe it wasn't the first time, but it sure was one to remember.
I was happy, though, that I was able to move on with my day and not feel gloomy as a consequence. I was able to take less than five minutes out of my day to show mercy toward someone who hurt me and still finish the rest of my day as I normally would. Can you believe that? Five minutes!
I've realized in subsequent days that as challenging as those first five minutes were, an even bigger challenge for me is going to be the next five minutes. Can I really do this again?
Must I, Lord, do this again?
Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven." -Mt 18:21-22
Ouch. I realize that this person isn't repeatedly hurting me, so maybe I could stop with that one prayer and call it good enough? But that wouldn't work either, since I know the problem is no longer that person hurting me but now my unforgiving heart. Praying once was not enough for my heart.
What, Lord, will happen to an unforgiving heart?
"And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart." -Mt 18:34-35
Ouch. Okay, I get the point. I guess I will be praying for this person to receive blessings from you again, and again, and again...until finally my heart will cease to fall back into a state of unforgiveness.
Once was not enough, but for five minutes a day, I can do this again today, and tomorrow, and the next day, until my heart is both purified and healed.
Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible—Second Catholic Edition (Ignatius Edition), copyright © 2006 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.