What are we talking about today?

Some days have themes. I don't necessarily post something in each of these topic areas every week.

Sunday: Church-related or spiritual things.
Monday: Running.
Tuesday: Books.
Wednesday: Transportation.
Friday: Green living.

16 January 2011

Just Put the Rock Down!

Last week I wrote about forgiveness and how it's not quite the forget-about-it-and-move-on verb that we might like it to be. Today, I'm thinking more about my response to someone who has offended me.

When I lived in Scotland, I was under the tutelage of Billy Wilson. One day our group was discussing the passage in which Jesus instructs his followers to forgive one another seventy times seven, and he asked us how often that was. So that you don't have to do the math, 24 hours/490 transgressions = Once every three minutes. As Billy pointed out to us, even on my worst days I don't err against God or against people every three minutes. And yet Jesus asks us to be willing to extend that level of forgiveness to others. (And, if we follow the reasoning to its logical conclusion, God must be willing to forgive at least that often as well.)

It's miserable carrying these around
with you.
In theory, I have no problem with this. If nothing else, forgiving an offence against myself saves me from the mental energy of carrying it around. In practise, it's a bit more elusive, but I'm getting there. Slowly. In the meantime, I get really aggravated when I hear people, especially in churches, who are reluctant to give others a second chance. I got really hot & bothered in a Bible class a few years ago when the suggestion was made that we should simply stop forgiving someone who doesn't show signs of genuine repentance, and once the commenter elaborated, it was clear that he thought if an offender makes the same mistake more than once or twice, you should stop offering forgiveness. Not exactly in the spirit of seventy times seven.

I'm not opposed to consequences, as I said last week. I'm not even opposed to saying, "I can't trust you with ______ right now" or "Let's find a different way for you to do _____" or "I can't help you with this any longer. I will be praying for you." Those definitely fall in the realm of consequences. I do object to the idea of "You screwed this up again, so I'm done with you, and I'm going to spend the rest of my days holding a grudge." That makes for great TV. It makes for horrible Christian living.

I don't have this all stitched up. I don't know all the answers. But I do know that to write someone off and then carry around resentment against them is no solution. "Forgive and forget" may not be doable, but "forgive so we both can move forward" certainly is. (Just to be clear: I'm talking about normal life circumstances here, of the "oops, I dinged your car" variety, not unusual, tragic events. I don't expect the families of the dead from last week's shooting to be capable of moving on for quite some time, for instance.)

What do you think?


Pk Hrezo said...

I was thinking of posting on forgiveness today too... how coincidental. It weighs heavy on my mind right now because the power of forgiveness not only releases the offender, but the offended as well. Its power is like nothing I've ever experienced before. The power that says, "you've made this mistake, you've hurt me, but I forgive you."
I agree also with your reference to Jesus' teaching. How many times do we offend God with our sins and actions of a lifetime?? Too many to count, yet he always forgives if we come forward and come clean with a true act of repentance. That's not to say it's a carte blanche to act out in any way you want and still get forgiveness... this is because God knows our hearts--he knows if we really and truly mean it.
We as humans cannot know if someone who offended us truly means it and will never offend again. But IMO we must forgive them each and every time because it's what heals us as much as them. Of course, that's not to say we have to be totally daft about it either. We can be be leery and careful of those who've hurt us in the past, while still forgiving of their past offenses.

Forgiveness cleanses the soul. And not just forgiving others, but forgiving ourselves. A very important subject... thanks for posting on it!

The Blogger Formerly Known As said...

I fell out with my sister (and best friend) a few years ago, and barely spoke to her for a very long time. I even realized I was harming myself every bit as much as I was her. Fortunately, I finally saw sense, and forgave. And it was instantly like a weight off.

Resentment is so self-harming. And, whereas it’s not possible to forget, moving on together is by far the best thing to do.

Su said...

@PK: Very well said!

@Blogger: I'm glad you were able to have that moment of relief. It really is easier to go through life not angry, I think.

Kari Marie said...

There's an old saying about hating that might tie into forgiveness. It goes something like: when you hate the only person you hurt is yourself because of the people you hate, most of them don't know it and the ones that do, don't care.

I think forgiveness is the same way. When we don't forgive, we carry that burden like a toxic backpack. In most cases, it harms you more. Forgiving and moving on at least keeps you from being stuck. It may or may not help the other person, but the act of forgiving can be eye opening for the receiver too. Life changing even.

Su said...

Very true.

Anonymous said...

oh how easy it is to forgive someone who says they are sorry. I understand how that logic emerged, though I'm thankful God doesn't operate by it.

Margo Kelly said...

Great post, and I love your gratitude list on your sidebar! Thanks for the inspiration. And, by the way, :) I have an award for you on my blog: www.margokelly.blogspot.com come stop by and pick it up! It will be available Monday morning.

Su said...

@Charlie: That's a good point.

@Margo: Wow, thank you!