How to Fully Forgive

Dorotheos of Gaza: Discourses and Sayings. Chapter 8 On Rancor or Animosity

Dorotheos shines light on how often we withhold full forgiveness. I know I am guilty of sometimes forgiving but holding onto hard thoughts. This leaves what Dorotheos calls a “weak spot.” This slight resentment is like a scar that can easily be reopened by a slight blow. Here are some of the highlights from his excellent discourse. Below we hear what Dorotheos directs to reach full forgiveness.

“What ought we then to say about ourselves who give way to violent anger and even bear malice to the point of animosity toward one another?  What else can we do but bewail our pitiable and inhuman condition? Let us control ourselves, brothers, and with God’s help come to one another’s assistance so that we may be delivered from the bitterness of this pernicious passion.” (Page 149)

Stages of Rancor (Page 150) Rancor defined as bitter, long-lasting resentment; deep-seated ill will:

  1. First Annoyance: Someone who is lighting a fire first sets a spark to the tinder; this is some brother’s provoking remark, this is the point where the fire starts. If you put up with it, the spark goes out.
  2. What Temper Is: But if you go on thinking, “Why did he say that to me?” So you add a small bit of wood to the flame, or a bit of fuel, and you produce some smoke, this is a disturbance of mind.
  3. Losing Your Temper: From this influx of thoughts and conflicting emotions the heart catches fire and there you are in a passion. This makes you irascible (Irascible is defined as prone to outbursts of temper; easily angered). But even this commotion can, if you wish, be put out before it becomes rage.
  4. Rancor: If you allow yourself to remain disturbed, however, you will begin to let fly at others – you will be like someone piling logs on a blazing hearth and fanning the fire and so making more firebrands. This is how you get into a rage.

Where there is no bad temper fighting dies out. Abbot Zosimos

If I have paid back evil for evil, let me fall down defenseless before my enemies. Psalm 7:5

“We pray earnestly not only to fall before our enemies but to fall down defenseless.” Dorotheos Page 151

How then can this be put right?

Dorotheos says that we can put rancor and animosity right by prayer from the heart for the one who annoyed us such as, “O God, help my brother, and me through his prayers.” We are interceding for our brother, which is a sure sign of sympathy and love, and we are humiliating ourselves by asking help through the brother’s prayers.

The man who prays for his enemies is a man without rancor. Evagrius

“Let us fortify ourselves and work with enthusiasm while we have time. May God give us to remember and keep what we have heard, lest it bring us a heavy sentence on the day of judgment.” (Page 154)

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