You think you have forgiven, but now and then anger bubbles up. You try and stuff it back in its box, but you know that its whisper is still fuming around your heart. Perhaps you need to discover compassion.
A step that is unusual and not what you naturally want to offer, but contains a promise of release that I've experienced and you can too if you pray a dangerous prayer.
I had thought Smudge was dead but then she moved, tried to get up and then slumped back down to the wet grass. My heart felt a surge of compassion, and I knelt down, rubbed her hairy nose and promised I would get some help.
I pulled my cell phone from my pocket and called John the guy who looks after Smudge. He said that he would be there soon. I had to go, but I would check on Smudge in the morning.
The next day she was standing up but still not looking that great. In the afternoon John was back, and he was filing down the left front hoof. He explained that this particular hoof had had a stone bruise. A cut or a stone had bruised and dug into the hoof causing pain and lameness.
While Smudge would normally be able to compensate for this pain, by putting more weight on the right hoof, however for Smudge the right hoof was also getting some treatment.
Smudge was not able to stand because of both front hooves being unable to bear its weight.
I wondered if left without treatment and being unable to get food if Smudge would eventually have starved to death.
All because there was a stone bruise. An infection had got in, and Smudge needed compassionate help.
A Stone Bruise to the Heart
I've known people, including myself, where a hurt has occurred. That little word said, that offence, that betrayal, has gone on to be lodged deep in the psyche.
It grows, digs deep, flourishes into bitterness, resentment, and desires for vengeance.
You want to forgive. You try, and you try, but it's still lodged there like a rotten tooth. Like a stone in the hoof of a horse.
Then you just hope that over time things will get better. Sometimes it does, but not always.
Jesus tells a fascinating parable about forgiveness.
In brief, there was this slave who owed a lot of money to his owner. The slave's owner asked for the money back. When the guy couldn't pay it back, the owner decided to sell him and his family to try and recoup the money lost. With this, the poor guy fell down on his knees and pleaded for mercy.
Here is what happened.
So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. Matthew 18: 26, 27
So this poor slave that owed so much had his debt wiped clean.
Gone, it no longer existed. No time payments, no 'drip feed' of what you can. It was erased from the accounts. Can you imagine any bank doing that these days?
Forgiveness is just like that. Debt gone, slate wiped clean, we’ll never speak of this again.
Forgiven through compassion
Where was the turning point in the story?
It was the moment that the owner felt compassion for this man that forgiveness was unlocked.
How much compassion do you feel for those that have hurt you?
Tough question. Probably not much at all and this is natural, just not supernatural.
A dangerous prayer to pray
There are some prayers we pray that would be nice if God answered.
Then there are some prayers we are called to pray that we don’t want to pray because it just might mean having to let go of something. A prayer for compassion is just like that.
How about praying this dangerous prayer.
Lord, bring me to a place of compassion for this person
(it might even be for yourself).
Often God will bring to your understanding more information that broadens your narrow perspective about the situation.
Now that is a prayer of surrender, and it’s also a prayer I have found God always seems to answer.
Take the edge off stress
In a study looking at how forgiveness can improve mental and physical health, the researchers found a definite link.
We thought forgiveness would knock something off the relationship [between stress and psychological distress], but we didn't expect it to zero it out. Loren Toussaint
Hear those words again. 'Zero it out' much like the slate being wiped clean.
This is what growing a spiritual practice of forgiveness can offer to you and others.
Many people think of forgiveness as letting go or moving on. True forgiveness goes a step further, offering something positive—empathy, compassion, understanding—toward the person who hurt you. That element makes forgiveness both a virtue and a powerful construct in positive psychology. Bob Enright
A stone bruise to the soul can create a boulder of unneeded stress. Compassion for yourself and others can slowly break it down, turning it to dust that floats out of your life. Isn't it time to pray for compassion.
Quotes to consider
- We know chronic stress is bad for our health. Forgiveness allows you to let go of the chronic interpersonal stressors that cause us undue burden.Loren Toussaint
- When you stand up to the pain of what happened to you and offer goodness to the person who hurt you, you change your view of yourself. Bob Enright
- Whether I forgive or don't forgive isn't going to affect whether justice is done. Forgiveness happens inside my skin. Everett Worthington
Question to Answer and
- When Jesus was dying on the cross, he looks out at his murderers and with compassion prays “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.” Luke 23:34 What stops us from being able to pray like this for those who have hurt us and even for ourselves?