St. Nikolai of Zica (Velimirovich) in his Akathist to Jesus the Conqueror of Death (Ikos four) says, “For a slave, the most difficult act is to forgive; but for a victor, the act of forgiving is already part of his victory.”
It may be particularly difficult for a slave to forgive because she is still suffering under the oppressions of the very one she needs to forgive. The victor, on the other hand, can easily forgive since she has conquered those who would offend her. It’s easy to forgive those whom you have subjugated.
But for St. Nikolai, the sufferings that we inflict and that are inflicted on us by others are actually the work of demons. We play a role, much like debris carried by a flood plays a role in the destruction caused by the flood, but the driving force is not the debris. It is the raging water, the spirits of wickedness. Unless we fight against these spirits manifested in our passionate cravings and rages, we too are swept along by the flood of our age, wounding and being wounded, oppressing and being oppressed.
Forgiveness is most difficult for the passionate person, for she is a slave to her cravings. She sees only people, those who offend her and those who cater to her–no one else exists. How can the slave forgive when her whole mind is filled with both anger at the people who hurt her and fear that she might lose those few who comfort her? Forgiveness for the slave is indeed most difficult.
Yet in Christ, slaves may become conquerors. A slave may conquer herself, and in conquering herself come to conquer the demons. And once a slave becomes a victor she understands that the people who enslave her are themselves slaves of the very demons she has conquered. Then forgiveness is possible. Then forgiveness is the result of victory. Hatred is melted by pity. The victor over demons has compassion on all who are still tormented by them. And when the victory is complete, like Christ the Victor, she can forgive even those who crucify her.
Until we discover that the real battle is inside ourselves, we will find it very difficult to forgive. But once we begin to achieve some small victories in the inner battle, the grace of forgiveness will begin to flow in our hearts as a natural consequence. At least this has been, in large part, my experience.