***I have chosen not to quote a lot of scripture in this article, not because there aren’t a bunch that support exactly what I’m saying here. There are plenty. But Jesus and the Apostles, though they were often quoting directly from scripture, did so merely by saying “you have heard.”***
This is not directed at anyone or at any situation at all. It’s just something that has been on my mind, and I woke up this morning thinking about it, so I figured I’d just share a tiny portion of my thoughts. I was talking to a friend about forgiveness the other day, and it just lingered in my thoughts and then in a totally unrelated thing I currently have 5 or 6 friends or family members who are sick now or in the hospital, and another friend who lost a family member yesterday who was a police officer killed in the line of duty. All of these things were just weighing on my mind, but none are the targets of my comments. So, I’m speaking to the whole issue and not applying it to any of these particular situations or people.
I can sometimes be difficult to have as a friend because I do not automatically adopt the alliances, friendships, hatreds, etc. of my friends. When someone comes to me and says “so and so did such and such to me” I don’t judge them for warning me, I don’t think poorly of them for how they feel, and I don’t adopt their feelings on the matter automatically. This is very hard to do today, but it is a hard-won issue for me.
I have counseled with dozens of couples who have split or who are going through divorces, and I have seen how quickly the friends of each side automatically adopt the angers and bitterness and opinions of their friend and absolutely refuse to accept that it is possible that both sides have legitimate problems and issues. It is possible that both sides are right and both sides are wrong.
I know what it is to be disliked without cause or for reasons that are wrong or completely made up. Not that I’m not unlikeable, I certainly am. Often if people knew the real me, they would dislike me for accurate and understandable reasons and not for the false and manufactured reasons they have chosen. I know what it is like to be defamed, and I mean in a legal sense, for years and decades. For people to have such an irrational hatred that they literally become obsessed stalkers, starting up and participating with blogs and such. I know what it is like to be hated without cause, and a lot of that just goes with the job.
I know what it is like to be unfriended, ghosted, attacked, and vilified by people for whom and to whom I have done nothing but good. I am certain that some or all of you who are reading this have had people contact you about me. Warning you. I get it. I’ve been warned about many of you. I choose to hold all things under advisement and to make my judgement based on evidence and facts and not on hearsay and gossip or based on the possibly legitimate feelings of others who may or may not be acting reasonably and logically. Emotion, in all things, should never drive the bus – and when dealing with interpersonal relationships, often emotion has triumphed over reason and facts.
But when you have been forgiven much, and you do not receive the justice you deserve for your own sins, you tend to operate with a lot more empathy and forgiveness than you might otherwise. And listen, I have a wide variety of friends. Some of them hate one another with a passion, and some of that hatred is probably deserved. I am not going to hate or reject who you hate and reject merely based on your word about it. I will take it under advisement.
Divine forgiveness is the province of God, but a result of Divine forgiveness is the increasing proclivity to forgive others in direct relation to how much you’ve had forgiven. Pure forgiveness, as it relates to humans toward one another, is an act of the regenerated will. We choose to forgive. And forgiveness is not just choosing not to retaliate or choosing to forego vengeance. That forgiveness which is a reaction to Divine forgiveness me-ward is a mirror of it, just as we are mirrors (that is, two dimensional representations) of all that which we have received at the hands of God. It is a wiping clean of the slate, an erasure of offenses, and while it is not an erasure of memory or wounds, and it is not a sanction for doing stupid things—that is, it is not a foregoing of good sense—it involves the positive act of the wishing, praying, and acting of benevolence and goodwill toward the offender. And not in a “I will be the bigger man and go through the carnal actions of forgiveness in order to be seen a certain way,” but a real, tangible determination to show in some manner the forgiveness we have received in our behavior toward someone who has done us ill.
I say this, not because I have mastered it. Hell, I’m not even good at it. I’m saying that I think about it. I pray for the gift. I beseech Almighty God for it daily, as we are taught to do in the prayer. I don’t want it to be a show. I want it to be real. And it is difficult. Maybe the most difficult thing there is.