THE RESTORATIVE AND HEALING POWER IN FORGIVENESS
FR.MICHAEL ACHILE UMAMEH
GOD HAS A DREAM
In forgiveness, God says to you, I have a dream. It is a dream of a world where its ugliness and poverty, war and hostility, greed and harsh competitiveness, alienation and frustrations,
hurries and worries, bitterness and revenge, vertical and horizontal disharmonies has discoloured miserably will be changed into a glorious place where there will be justice and goodness,
compassion and love, caring and sharing, more laughter and more gladness, joy and peace. I have a dream that swords will be beaten into plough shares and spears into pruning hooks. And that your
children will know that they are members of one family: the human family, God’s family. In God’s family there are no outsiders, all are insiders. Only unforgiveness excludes us from this happy
family. God wants us to be in partnership with Him in the actualization of this dream. “It is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure”. (Phil. 2:13).
THE SIN OF UNFORGIVENESS: A NIGHTMARE
Sin means simply ‘to miss the mark’. A failure to attain a goal, disorientation, a failure to achieve a set objective, a deviation from God’s set plan .A distortion in an original master plan
and design of the world and God’s family.
Unforgiveness is a straying and an excluding oneself, others and
God from God’s big family. Sin of unforgiveness would then imply, building of walls where God originally intended to build a bridge. The sin of unforgiveness creates an obstacle to the generous
flow of God divine cycle of blessing from flowing to you and through you to others. Unforgiveness like a thousand knives tearing the beautiful fabric of God’s into shreds .A mortal wound of
division between God and oneself, oneself with the others, and with oneself.
Every sin leads to slavery, but the slavery of
unforgiveness is more deplorable, because you become a prisoner to yourself and a prisoner to those little things that you were once their master.
Unforgiveness blocks the fulfillment of the human
person on every level of existence-physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual and social. Inwardlyharming and twisting the person , destroying human community and rupturing the
relationship God wills to exist between himself and humankind .Thus we exchange the life and freedom, won for us by Christ for renewed
slavery.“In all truth I tell you, everyone who commits sin is slave. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family but a son belongs to it forever.
And a slave of unforgiveness has no voice, no vote, no right, no blessings, no inheritance, no place and no property because it is himself/herself now a property. The elder
brother of the prodigal son by his unforgiveness though in the house had nothing. He had made himself an outsider. For a person becomes a slave of whatever overcomes him (2pet.2:19) and every slave
of whatever sin has a devil for a father (Jn 8:44) and the devil who is the father of liar and a thief come only to steal, destroy and kill. Whoever has sets his life on the path of unforgiveness
heads for self destruction.
Our world is filled with people with fragile egos and pride. And would not want to be hurt and when it happens would not want to easily forgive. So the world is left as open infirmary
of the sick roaming from place to place in search of a healing balm that lies untapped within them.
I stand to be corrected ;medical records in recent times has
given substantial evidences to the fact that at a deeper level, emotional dispositions are root causes of major sickness like heart attacks, strokes and various paralyses, cancer, depression
,mental ailments, high blood pressure, arthritis, deafness, ulcers, demonic oppressions and suppressions, miscarriages’, premature births and a host of others .Every disorientation in the inner man
changes the inner working of our body chemistry which would eventually lead to ill-health or a related situation of moodiness.
The moment the inner man is derailed, the spiritual balance, the physical alignment and the material cycle of God’s blessings is broken; unforgiveness could beget even actual material
In fact that is why many of you are weak and ill and some
of you have died (1 cor.11:29- 37).
Here is the nightmare; unforgiveness and the refusal to receive forgiveness. The first and the deepest kind of healing that Christ brings to us is the forgiveness of our sins. Forgiveness is
restoration, reconciliation, re-instatement, it is healing and wholeness. We are forgiven and made whole so that we can forgive and make others whole as well. Grant pardon and you will be pardoned.
(Lk.6:36-38). In this dream we are ambassadors for Christ; as if God were appealing through us .We implore you on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God (2 cor.5:18).
There is hope that this nightmare of unforgiveness and its consequences will end, because God has some great coworkers, some outstanding partners. You are God’s coworker and He is counting on
you because you are involved: There is a new creation, everything old has passed away. See! Everything has become new (2 Cor.5:7).
A WOUNDED OR A BROKEN SPIRIT?
In the Bible we read about a "wounded spirit" and also about a "broken spirit." In some ways the meaning of these two terms is similar. Both terms indicate distress. It is possible even that
one person may have a wounded spirit in response to the same situation that results in a broken spirit for another person.
But the two terms stand in contrast. First let's consider how they are used in Scripture.
"The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?" (Proverbs 18:14). The same Hebrew word is translated broken in Proverbs 17:22, where we read, "...a
broken spirit dries up the bones." The Hebrew word literally means "stricken." In both verses the NIV says "a crushed spirit."
A wounded spirit is one that is hurting, but one in which the hurt has festered into unbearable attitudes and responses. A person with a wounded spirit lives in inner misery that
focuses regularly on his injuries. Out of this focus come the following "unbearable" characteristics:
1. A negative mind-set. The person with a wounded spirit is preoccupied with past injuries. He views incidents in life in
the worst light. He sees the bad and ignores the good. His mind is filled with woes, suspicion, and assumption of evil.
2. Victim reasoning. With a wounded spirit, a person views himself as a sufferer. He can turn even kind actions of others
into additional grievances, into added pain in his life. He is pleased when others notice his misery, and hurt when they do not.
3. Grievance mannerisms. Out of a wounded spirit come sighs, groans, and exclamations that draw attention to the hurt.
There is body language such as shaking the head, throwing dark looks, facial misery, and slumped shoulders.
4. Blame tactics. A person with a wounded spirit holds other people responsible for the misery in his life. In truth,
others may have done him wrong, but those wrongs become the means of blaming others. The wounded spirit is able to cough up old injuries no matter what the present subject. The stories that are
told put others in the worst light. In addition to direct blame, there are ways of insinuating--giving details in such a way that worse is implied.
Is it any wonder the proverb exclaims, "A wounded spirit, who can bear!" Out of the wound oozes the stench of self-pity, bitterness, and accusation.
In contrast to this is the broken spirit. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise" (Psalm 51:17).
The Hebrew word translated broken is a strong word. It means "wrecked, shattered, even crippled or maimed." The Lord delights in the person with a broken spirit. In Psalm 51,
characteristics associated with such brokenness include:
1. Acknowledgment of wrong. A person with a broken spirit does not make excuses or blame others. He takes full
responsibility for his wrongdoing.
2. Contrition. A broken spirit produces genuine sorrow.
3. Humility. Self-will has been shattered. There is no attempt to lift oneself up.
4. Seeking after God. The person with a broken spirit has faced his own poverty and sin. He has no righteousness of his
own to promote, but rather, he seeks to know God.
5. Teachability. He is done with his own answers to life and is ready to turn to the Lord for help. He does not want his
problem explained or justified; instead, he wants help to change.
6. Unworthiness. The person who is broken in spirit does not demand, he asks. His focus is not on getting all that he
deserves because he knows he has been spared from what he really deserves. He is grateful instead of complaining. He has tasted mercy, and he is done with demanding rights.
Much as a wounded spirit makes a person difficult to live with, a broken spirit makes a person a joy to be around. He has tenderness in manner, a gratitude for what others do, humility about
himself, and a gentleness in relating to others who have faults.
God heals the broken-hearted. He declares that He will dwell "with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit" (Isaiah 57:15). When we experience brokenness and the
blessings that follow, we wonder why we resisted such joy and freedom for so long.
THE NEW AWAKENING TO FORGIVENESS
In Matt.6:14-15.If you forgive others their transgressions your heavenly father will forgive you.But if you do not forgive others, neither will your heavenly father
forgive you your transgressions. Those who do not forgive are prisoners of the past but for those who forgive, they are pioneers of an exciting glorious future. So how often do we forgive?
Then Peter came and said to him ’’Lord if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as
seven times? .Jesus answered,’ I say to you, not seven times, but seventy times seven times. (Matthew 15:21-22).
What then is forgiveness? How deep is the implication of forgiveness? If a wife comes home pregnant out of the matrimonial home, can she be forgiven? What if a husband comes home with a baby
from another woman should he be forgiven?
Is forgiveness relative? Is it a Class courtesy? I will limit myself to the fact of mutual forgiveness alone, since human forgiveness is both a consequence of and a condition for our being
forgiven by God. Hence, for sacramental forgiveness by a priest to be effective in the life of the individual, one of the foundational conditions is mutual forgiveness. “…forgive us our trespasses
as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matt. 6:12).
Forgiveness is then a virtue through which we resemble God. A man is never closer and more akin to God then when he forgives a fellow man. Forgiveness is the very prerogative of God. Who can
forgive sins but God? To forgive means to extend the mercy of God, which we experience in our sinfulness, to others who have sinned against us. It is to give the surplus value of the forgiven debt
of sin we owe God; to those who are indebted to us .It is also an act of gratitude to God. In the Lord’s Prayer we ask God to forgive us as we have forgiven those who sin against us. What we say in
effect is that if we are unforgiving, God should not forgive us.
In line with this St. Gregory of Nyssa said:
‘Do you want your debts to be forgiven by God? Forgive them
yourself and God will ratify it. For your judgment on your neighbour, which is in your power, whatever it maybe, will call forth the corresponding judgment upon you. How can a man habour anger
against his neighbor and seek God’s healing? How can one be unjust and wicked to others and seek God’s blessings and protection? How can we be filled with animosity and hatred and seek that God
will restore our fortunes? An unforgiving man should not approach a forgiving God. Forgiveness is a great gift, but it’s a penultimate gift. It’s intended to prepare us for something greater .To be
reconcile with God, with our neighbour and with ourselves. Restore to the family of God on earth as a foretaste of a fuller restoration as children of God, in Christ in the eternal family of God in
Forgiveness is a decision to be reconciled with the people in your life. Resolve to set them free and set yourself free .Forgiveness begins with the will. Forgiveness means restoration to
former favours, (Ex.33:15) to intimate friendship with God.
Forgiveness is the key that unlock the cell of imprisonment in the
hell of unforgiveness.
The act of forgiveness is a choice, a decision, an act of will and intellect. It can be cold, and devoid of accompanying warmth, positive feelings but all the same Genuine. The consoling
feeling may trickle in subsequently.
Forgiveness is not forgetting, if you could forget, it is good, but if you remember the offence, let it be without bitterness.
Some hurts, we may never forget, even though wounds
may heal, scars often remain. But those scars are badges of triumph and emblems of our victory over devilish cycle of revenge. Above all remember to forgive yourself as well. Life is too short and
too precious to waste being trapped and bound in the chains of unforgiveness .When we forgive, this promise becomes true for us; And now, I am freeing you from the fetters that bind your
Forgiveness requires that we take account. How we wronged others and how deeply they may have wronged us. We must hold dearly too that we must not always look to the Offender for healing,
restitution, or compensation or we will only be more wounded. The one who has caused the pain does not have the means to repay the debt or remove the pain from our lives. We must cast our burdens
upon the Lord and lay them at the foot of the Cross. He alone can make them light and make the yoke easy to bear. Remember what God promised: “And I will restore to you the years that the locust
has eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm. (Joel 2:25-26).
Forgiveness means allowing the God in me acknowledge the God in you.
NINE AVENUES OF FORGIVENESS.
1. You have been wronged. The other person apologizes and seeks forgiveness from you.
2. You have been wronged. The other person does not acknowledge the wrongful act and does not ask for forgiveness.
3. You have been wronged. You do not know who did it. You do not know whom to blame or who you might forgive.
4. You have done wrong. You acknowledge what you have done and you seek forgiveness from the other person.
5. You have done wrong. You justify what you have done and do not seek forgiveness.
6. You have done wrong. You acknowledge to yourself that what you have done is wrong, but you do not dare tell anyone or seek forgiveness.
7. Wrong has been done. All parties involved justify what they have done, and no one seeks forgiveness.
8. Wrong has been done. Some people on both sides acknowledge responsibility and seek forgiveness, while others do not.
9. Wrong has been done. It was an act of fate. No one is to blame, but still some people feel guilty and seek forgiveness while others feel angry and seek revenge.
These nine basic categories in which forgiveness may be sought or granted can help in sorting out areas needing forgiveness in your own
life, discussing with an experienced person or a Clergy and lifting it up to God in prayers, and thereby freeing oneself from being slaves to our own hatred.
THE EFFECTS OF FORGIVENESS: RESTORATION AND HEALING
Pope Johnpaul II in Reconciliatio et Paenitentia (35) says:
It must be recalled that this reconciliation with God leads as it were to other reconciliations, which repairs the other breaches caused by sin. The forgiven penitent is reconciled
with himself in his inmost being where he regains his innermost truth. He reconciled with his brethren, whom he has offended and wounded. He is reconciled with the church. He is reconciled with all
Thus, the purpose and effects of forgiveness is the restoration of the dignity and blessings of the life of the children of God, of
which the most precious is friendship with God.
The tenth edition of the concise Oxford Dictionary defines, Restoration as the process of bringing back to the original owner a precious right, situation, former condition or position of that
person. In its adjectival form, Restoration is having the ability to restore health, strength or a feeling of well-being. Instance are; the return of a monarch to a throne, a head of state to
government or a regime to power.
In this, the stories of Joseph in the Old Testament would be our guide on how forgiveness brings restoration. The story of the prodigal son in the New Testament on how being forgiven
Joseph had a dream and God in that dream was going to make him a greater ruler, this led to jealousy that ended him a slave in
Betrayed, sold into slavery, falsely accused, forgotten in prison, he was only sustained by faith in that dream. He had every reason to
be angry, bitter, and resentful and even destroy himself by self pity and despair but he did not.
Every true situation makes us “bitter or better” it is your choice, whichever. How did Joseph respond; he forgave his brothers and God
made him a great ruler even in the land of his slavery, restored him to his family.
He had this testimony of restoration from forgiveness.
“Do not be afraid, for I am not in God’s place as a judge. You meant to harm and hurt me, but GOD MEANT IT FOR GOOD .His purpose was to bring life to many people so do not be afraid; I
will take care of you and your Children. In this way Joseph, comforted them and spoke kindly to their hearts. (Gen.50:19-21).
Lesson from the life of the prodigal son (Lk: 15).He opened himself to confidence and as a consequence was restored to wholeness: His
father ordered forgiveness;
“Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him, put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Take the fattened calf and slaughter
it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again, he was lost and has now been found. (Lk: 15:22-24).
Each time we open up ourselves to receive forgiveness mutually or sacramentally God makes a restoration. He wears us again the robe of
honour, the ring of inheritance, and the foot wear of prestige. It is like an investiture by which God’s year of favour is inaugurated.
In the vision of Zechariah God said “take off his dirty clothes and dress him in the splendid robes and put a turban on his head.
…and the Angel stood by and said: See, I have taken your guilt away”.(Zech.3:3-5)
To be forgiven and to accept forgiveness is to accept an invitation to Joy. A joyful banquet of restoration is set as a table for your
inauguration. Blessed then are those who are invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb. (Rev.19:9)
HEALING AND FORGIVENESS
In Sirach 28:3 “Should a man nourish anger against his fellows and expect healing from the Lord?”
In our lives there are always about four areas of healing.
1. Spiritual healing (of sin and concupiscence)
2. Inner healing (psychological and Emotional)
3. Physical healing (Bodily sickness)
4. Deliverance (Exorcism)
In experience one has found that most sins do not block God’s healing power to the extent as does a lack of forgiveness. The deeper roots of sickness are first emotional and spiritual, and
forgiveness is both spiritual and emotional thing.
Though God heals through (1) Natural and (2) Supernatural means; it is as yet a fact that all forms of perfect Healing begins from the inside.
Doctors as well know that they cannot Heal, they only assist the natural healing powers already in the body, they re-activate the Healing eventually.
The channels of God’s healing if blocked by hurt and bitterness that healing may not flow in us or through us. To every physical healing it is often wise to seek first an inner
The moral laws of God are just firmly fixed as the physical laws. If you displace one the others are displaced equally. How true, that lands where we drill oil are not productive farmlands so
too the balance of body, spirit and soul would make Healing much more effective. Unforgiveness is always the clog in the wheel of that inner balance.
In scripture forgiveness which was an inside thing brought an outer reaction unto physical Healing.
In Lk. 13: 10-17 a woman crippled for 18 yrs was healed and she stood erect, glorifying God.
In Lk. 5: 17-25 Jesus first forgave the paralytic before his physical healing of the paralysis.
In Jn.9:2-12 the question was asked; who sinned, this man or his parents, which he was born blind? Most sickness could have some connection with sin and forgiveness.
Whatever our experiences may be, Jesus is set to heal the entire person, body, soul and spirit.
The inner Healing through the act of forgiveness, a restoration of inner balances and dynamics sets the stage for Outer Physical well-being.
CONCLUSION: NOW FORGIVE
This invitation to forgiveness is an invitation to joy, an invitation to be part of the fulfillment and realization of God’s Dream. An invitation to obtain a saving remedy for our
estrangement from God and neighbour in order that this restorative and healing powers of forgiveness may truly achieve its meaningful root in our whole lives and move us to fervent service of God
THE FORGIVENESS PRAYER
Loving Father, I choose to forgive everyone in my life including myself, because you have forgiven me.
I forgive my Mother for any negativity and unlove she may have extended to me throughout my life. For all the times she preferred others to me.
I forgive my Father for any lack of love, time and companionship for all the abuses, deprivations and unsatisfying Father’s blessing I forgive Him today.
I forgive my Brothers and sisters for rejection, lying about me, resenting me, refusing to assist me; I release them from bondage and set them free.
I forgive my spouse for lack of love, consideration, communication and betrayals, for all the wounds of relationship, I forgive.
I forgive my children for any hurt, lack of respect, disobedience, soiling the family name, falling away from the church. I forgive them.
Lord, I extend forgiveness to my in-laws for all their words and actions that injured and caused me pain.
For all my Relatives and Friends, Living or Dead. I forgive them.
I forgive my Co-workers, Employers, the Church, Teachers and Professional people whose thoughts, words, actions and decisions have hurt me badly, I forgive them.
I forgive the One Person in my life that has hurt me the Most.
Lord, is there anyone I need to forgive…….
Thank you Jesus that I am being freed of the evil of unforgiveness I now Pray a blessing on those who have hurt me. Lord, do something Special for each of them today. Thank you Lord.
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11. The African Bible, Paulines, Bandra, 1998.
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