There is a common psychological phenomenon in which a person attributes others’ behavior to character or personality, but his or her own behavior to the situation and outside circumstances. It is so common, in fact, that social psychologists call it “the fundamental attribution error.”
It is so easy to excuse our own bad behavior but judge others harshly, sometimes even for the exact same behavior. I snapped at the grocery cashier because the baby kept me up all night, and I was tired. That person snapped at her because he’s a rude person.
Knowing this about human nature, God reveals to us how important it is for us to forgive for the sake of our own souls.
Growing in holiness means striving to be more like God. How can we be more like God while refusing to adopt mercy, one of His primary attributes? How can we truly appreciate God’s forgiveness and, at the same time, not give it to others?
Plus, by holding on to grudges and unforgiveness, we enter the near occasion of sin. How much easier it is to commit evil against another when we convince ourselves that they deserve it for what they did to us!
It is important to note that forgiveness means letting go of the ill will and the desire for revenge. It does not mean we must recklessly forget harm done to us. In Jesus’s parable, the merciful king does not require the man to pay the debt when asked for mercy. He also does not offer him another loan.
So as we reflect on the readings today, let us pray that God will give us the strength to let go of anger and wrath, that we might more fully live for the Lord. Then we may bask in the light of His mercy, reflecting it to others.
J.M. Pallas has had a lifelong love of Scriptures. When she is not busy with her vocation as a wife and mother to her “1 Samuel 1” son, or her vocation as a public health educator, you may find her at her parish women’s bible study, affectionately known as “The Bible Chicks.”