I am basically, like, the worst Catholic ever. I know, I know, this coming on a day when someone tweeted that I was not only faithful but also orthodox. Which I of course had to clarify that they were talking about me. But really, I am really bad at this Catholic stuff.
I learned a hard lesson the Saturday before Easter. I was in Confession (I know, I waited till the last minute, but I had tried to go to other parishes (because I am scared of confessing to my own priests) and the lines were so long they started to turn people away), and I learned the truth behind “never go to a Polish priest for confession.” (Do people say that? I think someone told me that.) This is because they are blunt. Really blunt. Like, so blunt that, even though you are telling them your sins which you already know are sins, they manage to make you feel like you sinned somehow worse than you did. But I should take my own advice and remember that sin is sin. And also, it’s kind of like when you have really bad acne and you put super harsh chemicals on it and it burns like hell. You know the acne is going away even though you feel like your skin is going to burn off. So, basically confession to a Polish priest = straight vodka on acne. I highly recommend both, for the record.
So, what is it that I am so bad at, you may ask? Forgiveness. Basically the most fundamental and base thing Jesus asks us as Christians. I used to think that being able to hold a grudge was some sort of badge of honor. Some kind of time-honored tradition that came with my Southern roots (I still hate carpet baggers, by the way. And I’m not entirely sure what a carpet-bagger is.) Then I thought maybe it was just a personality flaw, but a minor bad habit like interrupting people. It was annoying and maybe not very nice in high society, but no need to really get worried about it, right? But the closer I got to my faith, the more I started to realize that this sin was a nice little ball of lots of other sins, many of which were part of the 7 deadly ones. The problem was, with my unforgiveness, I felt justified. I could be mad at my father for walking out when I was 2 and never calling again, except randomly texting me to tell me that he loved me. That was allowed and no one could tell me that I should forgive him. What did they know anyway? And I could definitely not forgive the person who acted as my father for being mad about something that he never told me about and then leaving the country and not telling me about that either. Because, really, that is permissible. And I could be mad at my former best friend for hurting me deeply over 10 years ago and never apologizing. I could hold a grudge against my mother-in-law for saying something really hurtful and inappropriate the week before my wedding. Every hurt I ever had was easily justified in my head and the more I justified it to myself the more I nursed it. And besides, none of these people had asked me to forgive them. Heck, half of them had no idea that they had even hurt me. And I certainly wasn’t going to bring it up because why rock the boat. It’s probably all in my head and I am aware that I ruminate, so why bother talking it out? And it spiraled from there.
What this all comes down to is pride. I am prideful when I hold a grudge because I think it’s all about me. I am presumptuous that I know others’ intentions. I allow myself to believe that they are trying to hurt me because I am prideful that people should, essentially, want to hurt me. I have to be aware that all of us sin, every single one of us, including (and probably especially) me. I have to practice the virtue of humility, one of the virtues that are so, so hard for me. Because for so much of my life, humility just wasn’t required. By not acknowledging that God has a plan for me, I fail to see these people who hurt me as a way to be better. As a way to practice my humility, to better myself, to ask myself “what is God trying to teach me here.” Jesus tells us to ask the Father “forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” So that’s that. If I can’t forgive people who have hurt me, how can I expect God to forgive me? I need to remember that as a Catholic, I can follow all the rules, but if I am not an example of God’s love, no one will want to follow those rules anyway. And if I can’t help lead people to God, what is the point?