Have you been hurt before?
Have you ever been rejected by others? Ridiculed? Maligned? Gossiped about?
Have you been cheated? Betrayed? Lied to? Stolen from?
If your answer is yes, then I’m writing to the right person.
That means you have emotional wounds, and my big message for you is that there’s only one thing that can heal your wounds.
Let me start by talking about something of great cosmological and eternal significance: My bloody ingrown toenail.
Sometimes called hangnail.
Let me translate that in Pilipino: hangnail iskukong nagbigti.
Anyway, would you believe my ingrown toenail lasted for two years? Because the nail kept re-growing, puncturing my wound again and again. The wound got infected and my entire toe was filled with foul-smelling yellow pus. (I apologize for grossing you out. I’m actually doing it on purpose and having fun.)
This is my claim to sainthood. If St. Francis of Assisi had his stigmata, I had my two-year old bloody ingrown toenail.
After two years, my mother scared me to death and said if the wound doesn’t get well, they might have to cut off my toe.
I loved my toe.
So I visited a doctor. And he said he had to pull out half of my toenail. I fainted.
I still remember that fateful day. The anesthesia didn’t work because of the pus. So I felt like San Lorenzo Ruiz who was tortured in the same way. (Please mention this tiny detail in my sainthood application.)
Here’s how the Doc did it.
Step 1: He pushed his scissors in between my nail and my toe, all the way to the very end. The pain was so horrific, I was ready to recant anything he told me to recant. Even my love for peanut butter.
Step 2: He cut my entire toenail into two. “Snap!”
Step 3: He got his metal pliers and yanked out half of my toenail. Blood and pus spurt like a little fountain.
But it worked.
My wound was now free to heal itself. What lasted for two years took only a few days to heal.
Why am I telling you this gory story?
To tell you that your emotional wounds are just like physical wounds. Bitterness is like the ingrown—it keeps the original wound alive by puncturing it again and again. So your emotional wound doesn’t heal.
And your soul gets infected.
If you’re not careful, the emotional wound can grow until it amputates parts of you, slowly killing you.
I’ve met people like these.
I pity them so much. They’re like the living dead. They are alive but they’re dead.
Like Minette, for instance.
Pressing The Rewind Button Again
Minette’s husband left her three years ago.
But when you talk to her, it was like it happened yesterday.
Adultery is one of the deepest wounds a human heart can have. After entrusting your entire life to one person, that one person betrays that trust.
But I believe even the emotional wound of adultery can be healed. I’ve met many wives whose husbands became unfaithful—and they were able to move on by the power of forgiveness.
But Minette couldn’t forgive.
Because everyday, she pressed the “Rewind” button of the most hurtful scenes.
Today, Minette has cancer. It doesn’t take a psychologist to connect the dots. Her bitterness was eating up her body as well.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
I should know.
I Forgive For Selfish Reasons
I was sexually molested twice, not by strangers on the street, but by an older cousin and by my own youth group leader. William Blake said, “It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.” That’s so true.
Those traumatic events warped my thinking, opened my life to addictions, and gave me self-contempt that would affect my entire life. I hated myself. I was ashamed of myself. Oh yes, my wounds were deep.
Yet in my heart, I’ve forgiven them. Totally.
I’ve released the bitterness in my soul.
Because of a very selfish reason.
Remember: Forgiveness is first of all a gift you give yourself.
I forgave because I wanted peace.
I wanted to move on with my life.
I wanted to get rid of the emotional baggage.
I wanted to be free.
And today, I am!
Let me share with you one more personal experience…
When You Forgive,
You Bless Your Future
Many years ago, I started a tiny business with a friend. I was the investor and he was the guy who ran the show.
One day, I saw him with a new cell phone. A really cool, top-of-the-line thing that had everything you could think of—camera, video-cam, GPRS, missile guidance system, and an umbrella.
“Wow, that’s a great cell phone,” I said.
“This is a gift. Someone gave it to me,” he said.
The next time we meet, he brought a new laptop.
“That’s really nice,” I said.
“Oh, this is also a gift…,” he said.
A few months later, the business collapsed.
After looking at the records, I realized I was the one who gave them to him!
He was stealing from the business.
A year later, he came to me and asked for forgiveness. I forgave him even before he asked for forgiveness.
Here’s the reason why I forgave him.
Again, I did it for selfish reasons. I didn’t want to waste any of my time and energy trying to get the money back. Instead, I wanted to use all my time and energy to earn ten times what I lost. I used my frustration to create more wealth. I wanted to focus on the future, not the past. I wanted to focus on my dreams, not my wounds.
Imagine if you lost one peso. And you have two options: Spend one hour looking for that one peso or spend that same hour earning P100 somewhere else?
A bitter person will choose the first option. Crazy but true.
Today, let me report to you: I’ve earned many, many times what I lost from that tiny business. This is the power of forgiveness. It heals your wound and blesses your future. That’s why I believe forgiveness is one of God’s greatest inventions!
Let me tell you how to forgive…
Stage One: Get Angry
Forgiveness is not a one-stage process.
It’s a two-stage process.
Here they are…
Stage One: Get angry.
Stage Two: Release the anger.
Don’t be shocked, but anger is the first stage of forgiveness.
You have to admit the hurt.
You have to acknowledge the pain.
You have to say, “What he did to me was wrong.”
Some people think forgiveness is pretending nothing bad happened. That’s not true. If you’re angry, feel the anger.
But you must express your anger in a non-hurtful way, without screaming or attacking. Bring your anger before God. Share your pain to a few trusted friends. Ask for prayer. Go ahead, cry. Offer your tears to God.
Anger heals because it’s about loving yourself—and love always heals. Anger means you’re standing up for you. As an abuse victim, I had to do this. Anger is needed to rebuild my broken personal boundaries.
How long should you stay in Stage One?
Not too long.
Because anger has an expiry date.
How Long Have You Been Angry?
Here’s the truth: Bitterness and anger is one and the same thing. But Bitterness is anger past its expiry date.
Let me illustrate.
I love spaghetti.
Served hot, it’s wonderful.
But left on the kitchen counter for a whole day, it may still be good but be careful.
After two days, you may get an upset stomach.
After one week, there’ll be more germs than spaghetti. At that point, the plate of spaghetti has become poison
Just like anger.
If anger stays too long in your heart, your anger no longer heals but kills. When anger turns into bitterness, it’s poison.
The Bible says, “the sun must not go down in your anger.”
I believe it. Except perhaps for severe wounds (like abuse, adultery, betrayal, etc.), I feel Stage One should not last for more than a day. I’m talking about the regular hurts we encounter everyday. Before nightfall, move onto Stage two.
But deeper wounds may need weeks or even months of anger and grief. For deeper wounds, I believe there’s no clear divide between Stage One and Two. There’ll be an overlap. But your movement must be towards Stage Two.
Because that’s where the real magic happens.
Stage Two: Release Anger
In Stage Two, you decide to forgive. Key word: Decide.
It’s not about feeling, but about willing. The feelings of anger can linger (that’s normal) but the decision has already been made in your heart.
Remember, Love is a decision, not just a feeling. If forgiveness is love, then forgiveness is a decision too.
But here’s a very important footnote:Forgiveness isn’t necessarily bringing back the relationship to where it was before. If you caught your boyfriend cheating on you, what should you do? Forgive him! But that doesn’t mean you have to get back with him again. That’s all up to you.
Let’s say you caught your boyfriend cheating on you twice. What should you do? Again, you have to forgive him. Now, do you get back into his arms? If you’re a psychotic with sadomasochistic tendencies, go ahead. Your desires will be granted.
Forgiveness is also not opening up yourself to more hurt. For example, if your alcoholic husband beat you up, you still need to forgive him; But do you back into the house? No way. You run away and never see him until he gets counselling and stops drinking for 6 months.
Forgiveness Heals The “Enemy”
The cousin who molested me has long been dead. So forgiving him in my heart was enough.
The youth group leader who sexually abused me is still alive. After 30 years, I have yet to face him. You see, I reported his name to a Bishop, asking that he be barred from doing any religious work until he gets help for his perversion. I had to protect other young boys who may be working with him. He has yet to come to me to ask for forgiveness. But even if he does not, I’ve forgiven him—and sent that “spiritually” to him.
The guy who stole money? As I said, he asked for forgiveness, and I was able to say to him, “I forgive you.”
When you forgive someone, you also offer healing to that person. Whether he accepts it or not is not your concern.
And by some magic, you don’t only heal yourself and the other person. You also heal all your loved ones.
Forgiveness Heals Everyone In Your Life
Imagine a room of ten people.
And one person there stepped on poop. (Sorry, my article is really gross today—about ingrowns and poop. But bitterness is gross.) Slowly, everyone in the room smells the awful stench. Only one person has the poop, but everyone is affected by it.
Bitterness is like that.
It wounds everyone. Your family. Your friends.
Bitterness is an evil spirit and people feel it. They smell the poison. They sense it. They want to run away.
Sometimes, when I enter a home filled with conflicts, I feel the collective wound of the family. You cannot breathe.
But when a person forgives, he’s like opening a window in a smelly room because one person stepped on poop. Fresh air comes in. If bitterness wounds everyone, forgiveness heals everyone too.
My last story is a story that I created, adapted from other sources. Be blessed as you read it.
The Son Who Hated His Father
“Hi John,” the priest greeted his favorite nephew.
“Fr. Chris,” the young man said, his voice betraying his troubled soul.
The cleric felt so much pity for the teen. “I heard you’re having problems with your father.”
A frown formed on John’s face. “You know him. He’s your brother. You know he’s impossible to deal with. He’s so selfish. He’s so cruel…” He fought back his tears.
“Tell you what, son,” the priest tried to sound encouraging, “let’s pray for him.” He stood up and pinned the photo of the boy’s father on the wall.
“What’s that?” John asked. The sight of his father’s face stung him. He clenched his fists.
The priest said, “It’s just a way to help us pray for him. It’ll be our visual connection to your father.”
“But I don’t want to pray for him!” the young man shouted.
At that moment, the phone rang. “Excuse me, son,” Fr. Chris said, “let me answer this call and I’ll get back to you right away.” He left the room.
John found himself alone, staring at the photo of a man he despised with his entire being. Seething with rage, he saw a knife on the kitchen counter. On impulse, he grabbed it and ran back to the photo of his father. “I hate you!” he screamed, and stabbed the photo many, many times.
That was when Fr. Chris ran back. “Oh my God…,” The priest said, as he could only look in horror.
His energy spent, John thrust the knife into the photo one last time.
He took one step backward, panting.
“John, I had other photos there,” Fr. Chris said.
“What?” The young man looked at the priest.
Fr. Chris walked to the wall and removed the damaged photo.
John couldn’t believe his eyes.
Because underneath it was John’s photo. Also torn.
The priest explained. “After praying for your father, I wanted to pray for you, John.”
The young man looked at his damaged photo. His face was torn, punctured by the same stabbing he himself made.
Tears rolled down his cheeks.
But even as his vision blurred, John noticed that there was something else behind his torn photo.
He pulled it off the wall.
Underneath his photo was the picture of Jesus, His face, also torn, also wounded.
And John collapsed on his knees, and wept for a long time.
— 0 —
This is the ultimate reason why we forgive: Because even if we sin against God, He still forgives us. We don’t deserve His love, but He loves us anyway.
Heal yourself, my friend.
Forgive anyone who has wronged you.
May your dreams come true,