A wise elderly nun gave some advice to a young sister who was struggling with resentment in her life. She said “Be careful about over-tending your wounds. Some people go through life pressing a bruise so that neither they nor (they hope) the world will ever forget it.” Sirach is a bit more blunt when he says, “Wrath and anger are hateful things, yet the sinner holds them tight.” He says the remedy is to “remember our last days and set enmity aside.”

Peter may have been dealing with some resentment in his life when he asks Jesus “How often must I forgive my brother, seven times? Jesus answered “Not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Peter thinks he’s being magnanimous with his willingness to forgive seven times. Jesus says in the Kingdom of Heaven, God’s forgiveness is unlimited. Disciples must be willing to give unlimited forgiveness. Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

The parable about the king and the two servants is pretty straightforward. One person forgave, another didn’t, so the stingy guy loses in the end. The king is extremely generous with forgiving a debt that amounted to about 10,000 days’ worth of wages—that’s about 20 years of work. In the next act, the tables turn; the absolved debtor refuses to forgive someone who owes him a much smaller amount. He is reported to the king who says “I forgave you your entire debt. Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you? Then in anger his master handed him over to the tortures until he should pay back the whole debt.” Then Jesus gives the punch line, “So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives your brother from your heart.”

Forgiveness is one of the most challenging aspects of our Christian life. It does not come naturally to us. It can only happen by God’s grace.

God does not place a limit on the number of times he will forgive us. God does not say, “You have a limited number of times when I will forgive you, so request them carefully.” God’s forgiveness and mercy is unlimited and unconditional, and he wants us to imitate his forgiveness by forgiving each other from our heart.

Holding on to grudges and resentments shrink the soul and trap a person in a self-made, unforgiving world with no exit. Nelson Mandela, who had every reason to be angry and unforgiving, once said “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping that it will kill your enemies.”

Scientists have proven that holding grudges affects our physical and mental health. It can elevate our blood pressure, disrupt our sleep, weaken our immune system, decrease our ability to trust people and reinforce a negative mindset about life. So why hold tight to those things that can harm us? Only forgiveness can help us loosen our grip.

If we are struggling with a grudge, bring it to the Lord in prayer, forgive the person even if you can’t physically reconcile with them. Let the act of forgiveness bring you peace and help you to move on. The greatest act of forgiveness was when Jesus dying on the cross cried out “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Lord, we beg your forgiveness in our lives. Give us the grace to act like you in granting forgiveness to those who have hurt us. We may not be able to forget the hurt that has been done to us, but we want you to help us to grant forgiveness to others the way you have granted forgiveness to us. In your holy name we pray. Amen.