Some years ago I got a call from Forest Hospital in Des Plaines, Illinois. The doctor on the phone asked me if I could stop by and visit with one of his patients who had been hospitalized there for over a year with severe emotional problems.
When I arrived at the hospital the doctor told me that he and the staff had done all that they could possibly do to help with his patient’s depression and despondency. They now felt that a priest was needed help deal with the deep-seated guilt lying beneath the depression. I sat and ministered to the patient for over an hour.
Dr. James Knight who was a Professor of Psychiatry at Tulane University School of Medicine said “that the hospital and the clinic have furnished me the most revealing setting for understanding sin and the operation of the moral order.” He goes on to say, “The abuse of one’s body or one’s sense of values results in physical and emotional illness.”
Dr. Knight told of a patient who had gone to his doctor for stomach pain. After testing and treating the patient for awhile, he had to tell his patient that his symptoms were beyond the field of medicine. The patient had cheated his sister out of her inheritance. When his patient came to grips with that and resolved his guilt, the stomach problem disappeared.
Dr. Knight told of countless stories that are similar. He said that people need to experience the forgiveness of God for sin in their lives. They must then forgive themselves which is the hardest of all and come to the healing of mind and body.
When we violate the laws of God, we suffer greatly. We experience guilt in our hearts, and we bring harm to ourselves physically and emotionally. Like Adam and Eve, we think we know more than God. We shun God’s rules and principles.
We so often try to rationalize away these feelings. We may find all kinds of ways to justify our sinful behavior, but we know the guilt is still there down deep. That guilt starts a vicious cycle, first by lowering our self-esteem. This leads to our negative attitudes which ruin our relationships with others and with God. We begin to project our bad feelings onto others. We develop a mean and critical spirit, always looking for the fault and flaws of others. This leads to depression.
When I was growing up, people were more willing to acknowledge that they were sinners. They were willing to go to God in confession of their sins and get their lives straightened out. Today nobody takes blame for anything. Nobody accepts responsibility for anything. Today we are always looking for some person, some group or some experience to blame for the troubles we are having.
Jesus taught us how to pray with the words of the Our Father: “Forgive us out trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” A God Touch
Forgiveness isn’t just a flippant remark, “Well it doesn’t matter.” No, forgiveness is identifying with another person in their selfishness and guilt, in their vindictiveness and mean-spiritedness. This is done while realizing that those things are in your heart as well.
Forgiveness is outgoing. It is positive. It is creative. Forgiveness builds bridges of love and understanding toward others rather than creating barriers of hatred and rejection. Forgiveness is what heals us and makes us healthy and whole.