The workplace harassment that I once endured resulted in very tragic consequences and had a decidedly negative effect on my life. When leaving the company I had worked for, I was physically and psychologically exhausted and unable to continue working or live a normal life. Following my departure from work, there was a period of several years during which I returned to normalcy and purged the devastating health effects of harassment from my life. This was a time of illness, suffering and all sorts of difficulties- damaged health, an interrupted career and professional development, unemployment and serious adversities in life. Perhaps the best years of my life, which I will never get back, were ruined.
So, do I hold a grudge against my tormentors? In short, no. Today I have no animosity towards them. I don’t feel bitter or slighted or even disgust and revulsion. These feeling were with me throughout the years, before I realized they were destroying me just like past memories. However, a considerable amount of time had to pass before I was willing and able to forgive my harassers. For me personally, this was something inconceivable. But this had become possible thanks to Christian forgiveness, which freed my from my feelings of hatred for those who had contributed so negatively to my situation.
How did forgiveness come about in my life
My recovery began at the moment that I came to the realization that I could no longer live in a bubble of memories and contemplation of past events from the time of my employment. That day, I clearly realized that I was still living in the recent past. Constantly, in my mind and before my eyes the most hurtful memories would appear and resulted in even more pain and bitterness.
Suddenly, I came to realize that I had continued dwelling among those who had contributed to my difficulties. They were with me every day, despite me not having seen them for a long time. I involuntarily thought of them so often that they became my constant companions- at home, at work, on a bus or during a lunch break. However, their company had begun to weigh on me and was the cause of an increasing number of conflicts. Moreover, my health had begun deteriorating.
I began to wonder about the situation I had found myself in. I searched frantically for some way out and had begun asking myself what I could do. I searched for answers to dilemmas plaguing me in scripture and Christian literature.
In one of these books I read that, “ there is no healing without forgiveness.” After considering this, I concluded that my return to health is not dependant upon external factors, such as pharmaceuticals. On the contrary, the cause of my illness is within me, in my heart, and that is the source of the pain I had been feeling.
I had begun to analyze my psyche. I quickly and easily recognized that what had been happening within me was an emotional storm, which had a great impact on my physical and psychological well being. I came to the realization that I had to free myself completely from the spectrum of past events if I was to fully restore my health. But how could I do this?
It became essential for me to get rid of the feelings of grief, anger or any sort of grievance against those who had hurt me. For me this was very difficult to overcome and to forgive. It turned out that it felt as if it were impossible. I realized that I was unable to forgive the loss of health and my job, a ruined career and many months spent in anxiety and fear. I was simply not able to open myself up to Christian forgiveness.
When I realized that in my case the barrier to healing is a lack of forgiveness, I began to pray for those who had wronged me. I thought this was enough. However, despite my prayers, resentment was still with me. Often during intercessory prayers for healing, the message of the need for forgiveness was aimed at me. But I did not pay enough attention to this. It seemed to me at the time that I had already forgiven all those who had wronged me. After all, I had tried not to think negatively about them and if any bad thoughts towards them had come up, I pushed them away at all costs as I attempted to escape the past.
However, as more time passed from me leaving my workplace, the more my resentment towards the bullies had grown. Over time, more memories swept over my mind. This was a burden on my spirit until finally it felt like the weight on my shoulders was so great that it was crushing me. I felt a similar weight around my stomach. I did not know what was happening to me and I could not explain the causes and the nature of the new problems that increasingly weakened me and deprived me of strength. At times it was as if the burden was so huge that I felt like I would fall under its pressure. Despite my prayers and the taking of the sacrament in the Catholic Church this state continued on for many months.
The areas of healing
One day, I received a book from a friend about forgiveness. I didn’t think at the time that this small, modest brochure would have such an impact on my life. “The Forgiveness Prayer” was written by Father Robert DeGrandis, an American priest associated with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement in the Catholic Church. The book addresses some important issues relating to forgiveness, which I had not realized up until that point.
Namely, one needs healing in five areas of life: spiritual, emotional, mental, physical and in interpersonal relations. All these areas are interlinked. Physical and mental healing cannot occur without the healing of the spirit. The reason for this is that the sources of many diseases and ailments are spiritual. The issue of forgiveness applies to the spiritual sphere, and therefore one cannot speak of complete healing without forgiveness. Our own sins and the sins of people we have met in our lives can be the source of numerous injuries.
We seldom realize how much we are injured as a result of painful events in our lives. These hurtful events and situations are most often relegated to our subconscious, which stores the dark and painful episodes from our past. If we were to look into our subconscious, how many dark episodes that effected our entire lives and had a detrimental impact on our health and well being would be apparent. Our subconscious hides what we may not remember every day, but what influences us and our present and future lives.
“Most of our injuries are hidden away in our subconscious and live a life of their own. Our subconscious is like the hidden part of an iceberg, of which 4/5th is hidden under water and just 1/5th emerges above the surface. The hurtful experiences it contains are unavailable to us, but emerge from the surface in the form of anger, constant irritability, bitterness, a lack of enjoyment out of life, chronic fatigue and physical illnesses. Therefore, we must ask the Lord God to purge these painful events from us, so we can forgive all those who hurt us so we can experience healing,”- explains Father DeGrandis in the book.
I must admit that I was a little afraid to return to the past, particularly to unpleasant and painful events. Fortunately, I remind myself of the words I once heard from a priest:
“Think about what you want- healing or anesthesia? If you want healing, you have to reconcile the fact that it will not be painless. One has to touch painful injuries, reach into their depths, remove what is preventing the healing process, so the wound can heal itself and the real treatment can begin. Otherwise you are only treating the pain associated with the injury and ignoring the root of the injury and the cause of the problem.”
The Prayer of forgiveness and a return to the past
I followed the recommendations of Father DeGrandis and recited the prayer of forgiveness for 30 consecutive days. However, this did not come without any initial difficulties. The prayers are to be recited every day and after only a few days I stopped. It was only on the third approach that I was able to complete the thirty days of the forgiveness prayer.
It was an incredible journey into past events which reminded me of the people I encountered from childhood. I treated the whole matter very seriously. I compiled a list of people who had wronged me throughout my life. Later, I extended the list to people who hadn’t necessarily wronged me directly. This group included those to whom I felt the slightest resentment for such things as indifference, not showing support or a lack of interest in difficult times.
So the list consisted not only of my bullies, the people I met at work who were the root cause of my situation at the time. The longer the prayers went on, the longer the list of those who had wronged me had grown. When the prayer ended its thirty day stage, I counted several hundred people, who in some way, even the slightest, had hurt me in the past. I prayed for them and asked the Lord God to grant me forgiveness for all of them.
Returning to these memories turned out to be a painful revisiting of events, which I would not had liked to remember. As if I was reliving events on a television screen. I felt that the more I prayed, the more the grief, bitterness and burden that was crushing me in the past was growing. Often this caused a feeling of nausea and I felt physically ill. Yet I was sure this was the only way to be healed.
The fruits of the forgiveness prayer
After about 20 days, as Father DeGrandis had assured, the first fruits of the prayer had come. The weight I had felt on my shoulders and in my stomach had disappeared. Grief, bitterness and depression gave way and in their place my heart was filled with joy and peace. I also noticed an improvement in relationships with people with whom they had been particularly difficult. This was a sign that God had heard my prayers and graced me with forgiveness.
It is worth it to recite the prayer every day in order to continuously give God issues relating to relations with people who you meet every day.
On the basis of what I experienced, I can say that forgiveness is a grace from God, because none of us can forgive ourselves. Forgiveness is not something that is done only with a word. Forgiveness is an act of will which flows from the heart. It is born the heart of desire for reconciliation. Prayer is what opens forgiveness to God’s grace. Persevering and passionate prayer is the key to healing.