15 Dec The hard way to peace
Tis the season to proclaim “Peaceon earth.”
But many of us do not live peaceful lives.
I am not talking about the busyness we often are slaves to this time of year that robs us of our calm.
Rather, my intent is to dig a few levels deeper than the materialistic sort of stress to get to a stress on our soul. Specifically – unforgiveness.
An article in today’s paper explains that when doctors apologize for mistakes, malpractice lawsuits decrease.
Often an apology is the salve necessary to soothe cut emotions. It validates our feelings of hurt and restores our dignity.
A few nights ago, I was frustrated with my husband. After a hard day, I grew angry with him for all that was wrong in the world. My grudge carried over to morning’s light.
We chatted a bit in the kitchen before he headed out for the day. He acknowledged my emotions and walked over and kissed me on the cheek. All my ill feelings melted. He did not say the words, “I am sorry.” He didn’t apologize for anything, because technically (technically!) he did nothing wrong, except maybe fail to read my mind.
But with his kiss, my hurt was lessened and my feelings authenticated.
If he had not offered the tenderness, would I have forgiven?
He certainly made it easy. And I knew for the sake of Team Landis (and my own heart), I had to let go of my animosity.
How do I respond though when someone wounds me for real? On purpose? What if the indignity brings long-lasting suffering?
What if it’s something like rape, theft, deceit? Or a doctor’s oversight? Or an accident caused by a distracted driver? What if someone dares to hurt my child?
Not so easy to forgive.
What if the offense is done on purpose? What if it is repeated? What if the person doesn’t deserve your forgiveness?
Not so easy to forgive.
We ask: “Why do WE have to forgive someone who doesn’t even ask for it?” We seek justice, fair play. If a transgressor doesn’t apologize, it is not instinctive to forgive. We say, “He doesn’t deserve it!”
We have to though. Have to forgive. Even those who don’t deserve it.
Here’s the thing – We do not forgive to let anyone off the hook, but for our own peace of mind.
I have struggled with this. Ugh. Many times I have pleaded with God for closure. I have wondered why the thornsare not removed from my flesh. I have asked why I must be repeatedly harmed. So far, no closure or answers have come.
Every day. Every day. I have to let it go. I have to find a place of wellness. It’s not about me. It’s God’s battle. I can rest. But my afflictions are companions. They are a part of me and difficult to relinquish.
You’ve probably heard that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will die. It is true. We will grow weak and decay if we ingest the poison of resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness. It’s a slow-working poison that causes great pain.
I am reading a book by Edward Hersh called Escaping the Pain of Offense. Though I haven’t yet reached the halfway point, I’ve nearly run my pen dry by underlining. (His quotes will be italicized in this post.)
He says, “Many people worsen their affliction and heartache by holding grudges, blaming, critically judging, or worrying about things that are out of their control.”
“Although repentance is a necessary ingredient to experience God’s forgiveness, one should never forget that God has made all the first moves to bring about that reconciliation with His creatures. That is why Christians should understand that sometimes the offended party must take the first step to restore a broken relationship.”
Did you catch that? Sometimes the offended person must take the first step! I tend to switch that around. I want to be apologized to before I extend my hand. But that’s not the way it works! (Again, ugh!)
“Those (victims) who think they can demand repentance before granting forgiveness are operating under the illusion that somehow their offender’s repentance will be sufficient to cover the offense.”
What about that one? Did you really hear it? We think an apology will be enough to cover the offense. To make it right. Seriously. We diminish the wrongdoing by expecting it will all be better if we are offered an apology.
I don’t care if you are handed a gold-plated shrine to place in your entryway proclaiming the repentance of your offender – if you have been raped, or beaten, or cheated on, the offense doesn’t become less of an offense, doesn’t get covered up, doesn’t go away.
“Wiping out hurtful memory is not the object of forgiveness.” But often that’s what we expect to happen.
“Unfairness and mistreatment by others are never guaranteed to go away.”
We have to understand our God’s deep love for His creation and that our sin hurts Him. Hersh says, “Sinners cannot atone for their sins in any way.” Yet we are forgiven.
Thus, we must forgive others even when they do not apologize and make things right.
I often think a meager “I’m sorry” will sufficiently cover my crimes toward God, the Creator of all things? Ha! Nope.
“How silly (and prideful) it is to think that we could ever repay our Creator for the hurt we have inflicted upon Him by any act of penitence, much less uttering a simple ‘I’m sorry.’ Mark it down, circle it, and remember this forever: we are not saved by our repentance but by God’s grace.” Robert Jeffress
God’s grace is what saves us! From our sins. And from all our grudges toward those who mistreat us. And God’s grace is what will save others.
We are called to forgive like we have been forgiven. Forgiveness is an act of the offended.
And with it comes peace.