Monday, March 8, 2010 We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us

I have this theory that most long-term interpersonal conflicts go on as long as they do not because one party keeps doing bad stuff, although that can sure happen, but because the wronged party is unable to forgive. And then they do some crazy stuff and make the other party feel wronged, and they think that's even worse than what they did, and hell if they're going to forgive it, in fact they're going to give that back and then some, and suddenly it's Hatfields and McCoys. Or Palestine and Israel.

Forgiving another can be a huge challenge. There's a kid I knew in grade school who used to pick on me. I still sometimes think about what I would do to him if I ran into him in a Duane Reade. (Let's just say, I would not invited back to that particular establishment.) It's totally crazy, and totally human. When you've been hurt bad, it's very hard to let go.

And sometimes of course we shouldn't let go too soon. You ask me, there's nothing worse than someone who hurts you and then immediately expects you to forgive them. It's like, even as they apologize, it's still really all about them. They've seen this glimpse of the ugly truth of themselves, and that makes them uncomfortable, and nobody likes that. So they turn it back on you. I've seen it, I've done it, it ain't pretty.

But at the same time, as long as there is no forgiveness, the other party is pretty much out of luck. Because sin really is like falling into your own pit-trap. You cannot get out on your own. You need to make amends of some kind, and you need to be forgiven.

Here's something that someone told me that helps me with all that. What if, in the cases where we just can't see our way to forgiving, we don't think of it as being something we have to do. Instead, we think of forgiveness as something God makes happen. Forgiveness in other words is not so much a choice by one party as a movement of God's grace that both we and the other party experience.

If that's the case, the pressure which can build up on both sides becomes less. We're not meant to try and force it to happen; rather, our job is to try and stay out of the way so God can do it. We participate in this grace of God's by going with the flow rather than by pursuing it all by ourselves.

And if the forgiveness is not happening, the question for us to ask is, Is there something I'm holding onto that's keeping God's grace from moving through? Am I somehow in the way? Maybe one of us is. (In which case, you'll probably know it because it'll feel a little bit like this:

It may even feel like this:

Sometimes we have to figure out how to get out of the way.

Sometimes, it just takes a lot of time.

The next few days are swampy for me, so I'm not sure how much I'll have posted. Check back and we'll see!

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