Forgiveness: An Often Forgotten Act

October 27, 2013

In every marital and other relational counselling that I do, the need for one act glaringly stands out almost without exception. It is the act of forgiving. It is possibly the thorniest and most difficult thing that a person is asked or required to do.

The reasons for holding on to anger are aplenty, but the ONLY act that sets our spiritual wheels forward, that helps us live a full life, is the act of forgiving – all the time, every time.

There are three people a person often finds himself struggling to forgive: others, God, and self.

What exactly is forgiveness? It is an act to let go of vengefulness, resentment, bitterness and anger towards the person who has hurt you. To forgive does not mean to deny the wrong that was done, or to make that wrong any less. The wrong cannot be changed, but letting go brings tremendous changes in the one who forgives. A person who forgives is less hostile, enjoys relationships, and experiences personal wellbeing.

When the Israelites were on the threshold of crossing over to the land of milk and honey, their faith in God’s promise faltered, just when they were on the threshold of crossing over. Instead, for forty long years, they remained in a place called Kadesh Barnea, cursing Moses and God for having brought them there. This was after they had experienced wonderful miracles along the way, including the parting of the Red Sea, which is probably the greatest to be found in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible. Many died and never saw the promised land.

Forty years may sound a bit exaggerated, but it is not. There are homes that are locked in longer periods of bitterness. Many even take bitterness to their grave. How often have we seen couples locked up in the land of Kadesh Barnea of their own creation. All it takes is an act of forgiveness to experience a relationship of milk and honey, but spiritual sloth and pride locks them in the doldrums of heartaches and seething frustration. A heavenly domain is turned into hell, as anger burns everyone it touches.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen, one of the greatest orators of the Catholic church, had said that “anger and reason are compatible.” In other words, behind anger there is always a cause. Every time we feel like forgiving, the manipulative devil reminds us that we have a reason not to. This slight provocation is all we need to justify our anger. But, we don’t have to be the victims.

The Holy Bible says, “Do not let the sun go down on your anger.” This is, indeed, a powerfully grim reminder of the danger of carrying forward anger to the next day. The Holy Bible further explains why we should reconcile immediately. It says, “Do not let the devil get a foothold.” The more we delay forgiving someone, the more complicated matters become, and pride begins to take a firm foothold. God does not want us to repress our anger, but then how can we express it? The Holy Bible has provided the answer in saying, “Be angry, but do not sin.” Be angry at the deed, but not the person.

I have often seen that an angry person remembers every single detail of the hurtful incident. He remembers the time, the place, the people who were there, the words that were spoken, the posture of the person insulting him, and so on – even after many, many years have passed. This has nothing to do with his sharp memory. It is just that the person plays the incident so many times in his mind that he is able to recall everything. It does not matter whether the person who has hurt him is dead. That is the consuming power of anger; it seeps into our very bones.

The evil that anger poses transcends homes, and pervades streets, towns and even countries. Unless there is forgiveness from all sides of the conflict that has plagued middle eastern nations, leaders – who have lost children to the conflict – will continue to blow their enemies in revenge and the bloodshed will continue, until perhaps one day no man will be found standing. Japan moved on after two atomic bombs were dropped on their cities because they could forgive America.

Dr. Ravi Zacharias, one of the most eminent and learned defenders of the Christian faith, and my personal favourite, once met with one of the co-founders of Hamas. He told the man that unless everyone accepts the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross to wash away our sins of unforgiveness, we will continue to sacrifice our children for prestige, power, revenge, and we will still not find peace. The Hamas leader, who himself has lost children in the bloody conflict, was visibly moved and his eyes glistened as he fought back his tears. The fact is, if one person has lost a son or a daughter on this side of the border, then there is another person on the other side who has suffered the same loss. Both have suffered losses, but even one person forgiving can make all the difference. It can stop the bloodshed.

In our own little family domains, unless Jesus’ message of forgiveness is practised, we will never be able to find peace. For all the money we might amass, for all the power we might attain, unless the soul is at peace, nothing really will ever matter.

When life seems unfair, even God needs to be forgiven. Those who have forgiven have been able to move on and accomplished feats that once looked outright impossible. Jessica Cox was born without hands and far from restricting her, she has achieved so many distinctions in her life. She even flies a small aircraft, apart from doing almost everything a person endowed with a complete set of limbs would. Without forgiving an “unfair” God, she would be enslaved hopelessly in anger and bitterness.

While medical science is fully aware that there is a close connection between the health of the body and the condition of the mind, many doctors don’t want to be direct and hardly even ask a patient if there is an anger issue. This is extremely unfortunate, but then allopathic treatment is far from holistic. Sadly, the present generation of medical students and young doctors themselves are grappling with so many personal issues. Alcohol and drug abuse is so common among them and, ironically, these very people are supposed to help patients achieve well-being.

Medicine only momentarily alleviates pain, but a forgiving attitude helps us enjoy a sense of well-being that no medicine can give us.

Research is now confirming the link between unforgiveness and cancer, and many other health conditions. For thousands of years, spiritualists have encouraged people to forgive, but few listened. Here are just few of the excerpts and all coming from the modern, scientific world:

"Chronic unforgiveness causes stress. Every time people think of their transgressor, their body responds. Decreasing your unforgiveness cuts down your health risk. Now, if you can forgive, that can actually strengthen your immune system." [Virginia Commonwealth University]

"Forgiveness could boost the immune system by reducing the production of the stress hormone cortisol." [Rockefeller University]

"When you hold onto the bitterness for years, it stops you from living your life fully. As it turns out, it wears out your immune system and hurts your heart." [Stanford University Center for Research in Disease Prevention]

In great centres like the Divine Retreat Centre in Kerala and elsewhere that attract thousands and thousands of people of all faiths every week, healings are experienced after reconciliation and forgiveness. Even cancers lose their grip over the powerful act of forgiveness. This is not a coincidence because God does not listen to our prayers when the heart is pounding with hatred. Here is what the Holy Bible says in the book of Mathew 5:23-24, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” God wants our offerings, but there is a clear precondition that the heart needs to be cleansed of all malice.

I was giving a talk to men my age on the topic of forgiveness. One man in the gathering of about 25, spoke vociferously for a good ten minutes about his wife, viciously berating her in front of the others. I was afraid that he would get a heart attack. I went up to him, placed my hands on his shoulders and asked him to take a deep breath. When we are filled with anger, we are unable to suppress it for too long. Eventually, it will show in one form or another.

Many people assume that a person who controls his anger is very patient. This may be far from true because it could just as well be that the person is repressing it. People with repressed anger are often in denial. When we feel that it is useless talking about our hurts, we then begin to internalize the anger. People with repressed anger just want to show others that nothing can make them angry; it is a false sense of control. The evil of anger needs to be met head on. At the same time, venting anger without backing it up with forgiveness does not heal any wounds. People are known to talk about someone to a person about their feelings. They feel ‘light’ for a few days and then they talk about it to another person and it keeps going on and on.

The usual questions vehemently posed by an angry person are: Why should I forgive? How can I forget? How can I ever forgive the wrongs done to me? Should I forgive even if the offender does not apologize? How can I ever forget?

Perhaps this story best illustrates and answers these and many other questions. I had gone to meet a nun and I happened to mention to her that I was planning to write on forgiveness. She abruptly asked if I had the time to come with her to meet someone. We took a rickshaw ride to meet a young woman at a shelter and the nun had given me no warning of what to expect. I was introduced to a woman whose face had been disfigured with acid by her jilted lover. He had told her, “If you don’t marry me, you will never marry anyone?” His ravaged soul could think of nothing but destroying her.

Not wanting their family’s name tarnished, the young woman’s parents asked her to leave their house. She had lost everything. The nuns who sheltered her taught her tailoring to help sustain herself in the future, but above all they taught her to forgive. She relived that horrific moment for five years and even suffered nightmares. Then one day she forgave the man. She felt the crushing weight of a huge boulder lifting off her chest. Weeks later, she was able to ask God to give him peace and good health. She told me that even if she wanted to, she could never forget because he had scarred her face for life. But, she added, that the memory of the event, of that man, was not painful any more. She said, the moment she wished the man peace from her heart, God blessed her with the same peace.

Another person she had to forgive was herself, as is so often required. We loan someone money and when the person does not return it, we get angry with that person. Eventually, we end up angry at ourselves for loaning the money. In this woman’s case, she often blamed herself for falling in love with that person. Forgiving herself was far more difficult, but eventually she won that battle, too.

Lewis Smedes has said it so well, “To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

If a person has a cynical view of life, then he is only mirroring problems with himself. We cannot give anyone happiness when we are ourselves are struggling with it. Human beings are endowed with the will to choose. Why live a life of hurt and scorn, when we have a choice?

Jesus had every reason to tear apart his tormentors, and yet from the cross He said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” What He said is very compelling and needs reflection. If anger and reason are compatible, then we also need to find a reason to forgive. In almost all cases, we get stuck with anger because we cannot find a reason to let go. If the devil shows you the reason to hold on to your anger, then Jesus shows us one way to release it. He magnanimously provided one blanket reason for the many wrongs He suffered when He said, “They do not know what they are doing.”

In much the same way Jesus did, we need to give people who have hurt us the benefit of doubt.


Oliver Sutari - Archives:



By Oliver Sutari
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Comment on this article

  • William, US

    Sun, Nov 03 2013

    Brilliantly written! I am not surprised if those hard-line souls harboring anger until they read your writing, finally said" forgive them Father, they do not know what they are doing" and found peace!

  • aneesh, manipal

    Sat, Nov 02 2013

    Dear uncle,

    Well written once again.

    I remember you had spoken few sentences about forgiveness in the church sometime back. Thank you.

  • Judy Pinto, Kundapura/Canada

    Sat, Nov 02 2013

    Dear Mr. Sutari,
    Thank you very much for this excellent article! Although I have always been able to easily forgive and forget in my life, it was wonderful to read your amazing write-up which reassesses and reinforces this affirmative action that every human being would benefit from. It is wise and timely to reiterate the value of this noble act, and you have written it with such a flourish, it has been a pleasure to read. I am grateful for your genuine art of writing. Life is indeed very short to keep and cultivate anger, as we hardly even have enough time in our fleeting lives to sow and salvage the seeds of love. Looking forward to more articles from you and thank you!

  • Jones, manipal

    Thu, Oct 31 2013

    Thank You, Mr Oliver for that quote.
    Ive understood better now.


    Thu, Oct 31 2013

    Nice n relevent article mr sutari
    you narratedit in a good flow happy to read it

  • Oliver Sutari, Manipal

    Thu, Oct 31 2013

    Dear Jones,
    Thank you for your comments. Perhaps these two quotes will help you understand what true forgiveness is:

    "You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well." Lewis Smedes

    "There is no love without forgiveness, and there is no forgiveness without love."
    Bryant H. McGill

  • jones, manipal

    Thu, Oct 31 2013

    Mr Oliver thank you for writing on an Important topic.
    I feel one can forgive, bless the other person for the wrongs done to him.
    So forgiveness becomes a personal decision.
    However if u cannot love the person after you've forgiven is it complete forgiveness?

  • Rudolf Rodrigues, Mangalore/Mumbai

    Wed, Oct 30 2013

    Sir, excellent article, but I did not like the repeated reference to religion!!! Jai Hind!!

  • Ethan Avidhan Hans, Florida/ mangalore

    Wed, Oct 30 2013

    “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” I heard this being Quoted out of context by my Christian Brothers ans Sister especially from Catholic denomination and Non Church going protestants this basically used to put others down but little persecution from other communities and you should see the comments printed in these columns.
    Actually everything is in " Lords Prayer" itself as it clearly spells out that"And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors" in past tense so it says that if you do not Forgive others you do not even have the right to pray this prayer this is the key in this prayer and all of have forgotten that and messed our lives especially with the middle and younger generation I do not know who asked people to follow their heart and Bible says thus about your heart"Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
    Jer 17:10 I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings. " so never ever trust your heart on any thing! most of the time all bad things happens to us due to this as we trust our heart!! no one is exempt from this!

  • R.Bhandarkar, M'lore

    Wed, Oct 30 2013

    Nancy dear...Just for you in Oliver's domain....
    Don't give anybody the 'Power' to insult you...Right?
    You should be in 'control' that's all!

  • Rophy D'Silva, Manipal

    Wed, Oct 30 2013

    Hi Mr.Oliver, I love to read your articles every time on daiji. I really liked it. excellent keep it up and share your your valuabale idea & knowldge God bless you.

  • Nancy, Belman

    Wed, Oct 30 2013

    Nice Article. Each person must read this. It is very difficult/hard to forgive and forget. But must try to forgive.

    How can we forgive the person who is insulting again and again?

  • Peter Dsouza, Mangalore/Dubai

    Tue, Oct 29 2013

    There are some people who make big mistakes in life, but not ready to forgive others who's mistakes may be lesser. Like chewing Gum they drag on and on and try to spoil other families. There is nothing like forgiving and living. People who forgive enjoy immense happiness and there are people who are victim despite asking forgiveness not granted. Then those people expose the first party. Truth of life is Forgive and lead a new life. {Jesus told throw a stone to her if you never sinned}

  • Arnold Lobo, Bangalore / Qatar

    Tue, Oct 29 2013

    Wonderful article. Wish & hope this article is read by all those who are unable to forgive. By doing so they are blocking the blessings that is in store for them. I too was carrying bitterness, hurts & hatred towards my friends, colleagues at work and even my own family members. My life was miserable however hard I tried to come up in life,I was unable to achieve. In the year 1998 a man of God who I met in Dubai talked to me about forgiveness and the love of God and taught me the importance of having a personal relationship with God in prayer. Today praise God the forgiveness act exercised after meeting the man of God in 1998 has opened the doors to loads of blessings in my life. It is a beautiful experience after you forgive and pray for those who have hurt you. You will experience the inner peace which no amount of money nor any person in power can give. Thank you Oliver for this wonderful article. May this article enlighten the minds of those who are hard heartened in forgiving and thus blocking the blessings.

  • Siva Avadani, Manipal/Dubai

    Tue, Oct 29 2013

    Excellent Article. Forgiveness is the best medicine, having hat rate and anger will only spoil ones health and family. No matter what the other including our own did. Forgive and see the relief. After forgiving the other parties will be guilty and never repeat the mistakes again. God Bless All.

  • Oliver Sutari, Manipal

    Mon, Oct 28 2013

    Dear Janette,
    Yes, I also see the hand of God. I absolutely do. I could never write without the Holy Spirit's guidance and inspiration.

  • janettedsouza, Abu dhabi

    Mon, Oct 28 2013

    Do I see the hand of God in your write-ups? Oh yeah, surely I do! May the Lord use you for His greater glory Oliver. May He fill you with greater wisdom.

  • Fatima Praveen Menezes, Moodubelle/Kuwait

    Mon, Oct 28 2013

    Excellent article.Waiting for more articles

  • Rudolf, Mangalore/Mumbai

    Mon, Oct 28 2013

    Article full of Wisdom, but it is easier said than done!! With the totally materialistic times that we are passing through people are so blindfolded by the competition to amass more and more of material gains that it becomes very difficult for them to dissolve their EGO and FORGIVE, I am observing this in my own close and extended family!!!

  • R.Bhandarkar, M'lore

    Mon, Oct 28 2013

    Dear Sutariji...
    Very True. The 'Karma Theory' too refers to this.Some take it (hatred)even to their next birth.
    This fact may astound many. It has been propounded in many cases that 'children','infants' who die young and cause immense agony to parents, in fact
    were sworn enemies of their parents in their previous birth! Unable to settle scores , they avenge it in their next life in any possible way and leave once their deed is done! Isn't it mind-boggling! Not many following 'any faith' know this secret!
    In light of this too it becomes that much important to harness the act of forgiving and from within!
    Sincere Regards.

  • Peter, Bolkunje/Mangalore

    Mon, Oct 28 2013

    Very enlightening article on forgiving. I pray that all who are in this state of unforgiving read this article and change once for all. Well written Oliver.

  • Alex Sequeira, Manipal

    Mon, Oct 28 2013

    This is an inspired piece...a must read for all...great job Oliver!

  • A. S. Mathew, U.S.A.

    Mon, Oct 28 2013

    Fantastic article. If the readers who are suffering with the chronic spiritual disease called "unforgiveness", please embrace forgiveness which can transfer our life to a new dimension. Our foolish pride and ego will resist that decision, but we are hurting ourselves far terribly every day.

    Since I was gullible and trusted blindly what other people told me, I have been terribly fooled by many. That bitterness towards each of them began to swallow my joy whenever I saw them or their thought came to my mind. It took away my peace and energy every day. But one day, I took a decision with the help of GOD to forgive them and let GOD to handle the judgment I felt greater peace and freedom in life. It is a spiritual internal surgery of removing the cancer cells of bitterness and revenge.

  • Joe Corda, Shirva/Toronto

    Mon, Oct 28 2013

    Congratulations Oliver! Very nice article on forgiveness. Best wishes

  • Prashanth, Mangalore

    Sun, Oct 27 2013

    Congratulation to author.Wonderful article.Saw a man keep on forgiving his unfaithful wife who cheated him fiancially,keep on dating with every Tom,Dick and Harry.Forgiveness to be realized by both giver and offender.Then only it is meaningful.Thanks.

  • Joe Gonsalves, Mangalore

    Sun, Oct 27 2013

    Dear Oliver,

    I have not met you or seen you but I am inspired by your article which spells out volumes. You have written well.... It is in forgiving that we receive forgiveness. It is indeed hard to forgive at times but if we put our faith in HIM - He would find a way to inspire us.

    Kudos to you for your openminded article.

    I have the pleasure to send you these greetings from distant America.

    Joe Gonsalves

  • C. Mascarenhas, Mangalore/Mumbai

    Sun, Oct 27 2013

    After my marriage and fathering three children I suddenly lost my wife due to a mysterious illness it took me 15 long years to forgive God for this misfortune not so much that I missed a loving wife but I could not bear to see my three children live through their childhood without a caring and loving Mother. I used to always ask God: “Why me?” It was only after I forgave God that He blessed me by disclosing that there was a higher spiritual purpose behind the calamity. That spiritual purpose was to bring soul awareness into my life and the consciousness of an “Unseen Real World” and the utter ineptitude of the clergy to spiritually guide those in need.

  • John DSouza, Mangalore

    Sun, Oct 27 2013

    The article about forgiveness is a wonderful remedy to several severe diseases of our mind and body.
    Forgiving mind, heart and capacity is a great blessing and gift of God, to get relieved from the extra heavy burden, which we unnecessarily carry in life.
    Being forgiveness is a powerful weapon, it is capable to cure and relieve scores of patients from psychological diseases, which they suffer due to unforgiveness.

  • Glenn, Mangalore/Kuwait

    Sun, Oct 27 2013

    Dear Prabhu,
    You cannot forgive unless you forget.Another fact is men forgive better than women.

  • Pinto, Mangalore

    Sun, Oct 27 2013

    If you are cheated by any person then that person is to blame......But if you are cheated by the same person again then you are to blame.
    Forgiving is an art but not forgetting is a must !

  • PRABHU, Mlore n

    Sun, Oct 27 2013


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