Reflection: Anger, Hatred, and No Forgiveness

by Father Don Thomas

If love of God and love of neighbor make up the first and greatest of all the commandments, it does not take a rocket scientist to deduce that hatred must be one of the most offensive sins in the eyes of God. We are encouraged to be in touch with our emotions, but we are also taught how important it is to control them, lest failure to do so leads to dreadful consequences. Again, our most clear and effective teacher and counselor in this matter is the holy bible. In Sacred Scripture we read about the world's greatest teacher, Jesus Christ, stressing the absolute importance and necessity of forgiving others rather than harboring anger or hatred in our hearts.

We know that Jesus did not use computers, tape recorders or TV monitors as teaching aids, but he did use the parables, the paradox and his personal example and witness to teach many important lessons about life and salvation. In this matter of anger, hatred and failure to forgive, we hear Jesus warning us that if we do not forgive our brother or sister, neither will our heavenly Father forgive us. Yet, we still hear people practically swear that they will never forgive their mother or sister or brother for what they did to them some five, ten or twenty five years ago. They make it clear that "even if my soul bums in hell, that's how I feel and I am not going to change. I'll never forgive them and they too can bum in hell as far as I am concerned".

Sad to say, this mentality is far more prevalent than you might think. It is amazing how wills, money and property can tear loved ones apart, filling them with anger, hatred and an unwillingness to forgive. Again, from scripture, we see how Jesus was willing to forgive all those who were responsible for crucifying him, "for they know not what they are doing". Christ was always forgiving others—Peter, who denied him not only once but three times, and other apostles on various occasions for their lack of faith. You can be sure that he would even have forgiven Judas if he had sought forgiveness. Of course, that is what free will is all about. We have choices and decisions to make, and we have to be aware that accountability and responsibility are a part of the scenario. We can be so blinded or inebriated with anger and hatred that we are no longer impressed even by the love or the warnings of God himself. Two wrongs have never made a right, but no longer in these hate-filled situations does common sense have any meaning or effect either.

God expects us to forgive over and over again—not seven times, but seventy times seven. Maybe these people think they are never going to die, but God is in complete control of time and eternity. We must forgive if we ourselves expect to be forgiven.

How can we recite the Our Father hundreds or thousands of times in the course of our lives, asking God every time to "forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us"—while all the time we harbor hatred in our hearts, unwilling to forgive others? How can we possibly think we can fool God by praying like that? Only a fool would even think about the idea.

In conclusion, let us again turn to the bible, to the Book of Sirach, to see what God tells us about hatred, anger and our failure to forgive. In Sirach (27:30 28:9), we read the following. 'Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner hugs them tight. The vengeful will suffer the Lord's vengeance, for he remembers their sins in detail. Forgive your neighbor's injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. Could anyone nourish anger against another and expect healing from the Lord? Could anyone refuse mercy to another like himself, can he seek pardon for his own sins? If anyone who is but flesh cherishes wrath, who will forgive his sins? Remember your last days, set enmity aside; remember death and decay, and cease from sin. Think of the commandments, hate not your neighbor; remember the Most High's covenant, and overlook faults". Let a word to the wise be sufficient.


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