Probably one of the most commonly ignored dictates of Jesus is his command to pray for those who hurt you. Let’s face it, it doesn’t come naturally. It’s so much easier to plot revenge and lick our wounds. The problem with that approach though is that, paradoxically, it keeps us attached to the very person who has hurt us, magnifying their power to hurt us even more. Without realizing it we give them too much control over our thoughts and feelings…like giving them rent-free space in our hearts and heads.
So perhaps we should consider Christ’s alternative.
Reason 1: Christ Commands It
There are two good reasons to pray for those who hurt you. The first is simple: Jesus said so. We don’t always need to understand or be on board to obey. It’s about trust. A child may not always understand a parent’s reasoning not to run out in traffic, but should listen. It’s playing on the safe side. Listening to Jesus is enough of a reason to get you started.
I figured she was probably talking to mutual friends and spreading venom about me.
I experienced that first hand many years ago after enduring a terrible hurt from a friend. The attack came so out of the blue and was so wounding that I didn’t know where to go with it. I’d been hurt before but never like that. I sat in church one day just boiling and asking what to do, when Christ’s words came to me: Pray for those who hurt you. Was he kidding me?! It seemed ridiculous and impossible. I didn’t even know what the goal of praying was…for reconciliation? That didn’t seem feasible or even desirable at that point. I didn’t want to let her off the hook. How she treated me was terrible. Even worse, I figured she was probably talking to mutual friends and spreading venom about me. I could start talking too and defend myself, but that might only make me look guilty and weak. I knew silence was the right answer but I had to find a way to calm the storm inside me. Anger really can be a very heavy cross.
But Jesus said to pray for this person who had hurt me (and frankly, nothing else was working). I didn’t feel any good feelings toward her at all. So making the prayers up from the heart wasn’t going to work. However, I could say a Hail Mary or an Our Father. Ok. Just one Hail Mary a day…or whenever she came to mind. In the beginning I spit them out like bullets. No feelings. No forgiveness in my heart…still just anger. But Jesus hadn’t commanded me not to be upset. He hadn’t told me how to feel, just to pray. So I did. For weeks, then months and then years.
The most astounding thing happened. Over time the anger left me.
The most astounding thing happened. Over time the anger left me. I felt sorry for her. I started to understand other stressors in her life. I remembered the great blessing she had been in my life. Thanks to her and her husband I started taking my Catholic faith more seriously. I started to understand the teachings that once confused me and became more and more consistent in my own belief and faith walk. I came back full time and fully committed to the Church. I got involved in the pro-life movement, probably the greatest blessing in my life. She had been the key to all of that happening.
Eventually I realized there was something more going on than our personal argument. It wasn’t actually about us. I started to understand spiritual warfare. How the devil could take something good, find our weaknesses, fan those flames and try to destroy it. How the devil retaliates when we do God’s work, which she had… and quite well. So I continued to pray, but finally more from the heart. My feelings changed based on my action of praying, which triggered the action of grace. We reconciled years later. When we did she told me she held onto her anger much longer than I had. I felt so bad for her to have been carrying that burden! I had let go of it years before. I was free. Since that time we’ve both grown. God gave amazing graces in both of our lives. She’s gone on to do enormous things for the Church and for suffering souls. His grace is truly amazing.
Reason 2: God Loves Those Who Hurt You
Which leads me to the second reason to pray for those who hurt you…because God loves them (and you love God). Because He has a plan for them. Because they may need these prayers that may never have come were it not for the hurt they caused you. Because God loves you too and wants to bring good out of the pain He’s allowed in your life. Because hurt should not have the final say in your heart, love should. In our pain is His power…if we listen to His words.
It may not be easy to do this on your own. Talking it out with a counselor who shares your faith perspective, who also understands the pain you’re experiencing can be a tremendous aid in moving forward in forgiveness and hope. We’re not meant to navigate this world alone. It’s within the Body of Christ that we’ll find that peace which surpasses all understanding.