Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Three Most Powerful Words

I was sitting in the classroom and overheard a group of teens discussing a potentially cheating girlfriend/boyfriend. One of the group mentioned that she thought 'once a cheater, always a cheater', and for the most part, the others agreed. I really mulled that over during the rest of the day as a spiritual matter. What are we teaching our kids as a culture about forgiveness.

We are so weak and frail as humans. We are tempted and tried and no one really knows what we go through on a daily basis. This line of thought continued late into the evening as I watched advertisements for the morally bankrupt new show "Revenge". Really? Revenge? No wonder we have no forgiveness in our hearts. It's all about the revenge.

Successful relationships of all kinds including friendships, love interests, those with our parents/children aren't always about loving enough, but maybe they are more about our ability to forgive each other. If I never forgave my father every time he was a jackwagon or if my children never forgive me every time I am irrational, we'd have no relationships at all. It's not the quantity of love, it's the quality of our forgiveness that allows us to continue in love.

Forgiveness is complicated. Some of us equate forgiveness with weakness or lack of backbone or an automatic pass for people to hurt us. Forgiveness sometimes seems impossible, because we are literally unable to forget past wrongs. They cling to us and, more often, us to them.

I have always been the kind of person who sort of lets things roll right off. No really, I know I can be forceful and cranky and opinionated, but most of the time, if you are a friend or someone in my close circle and you do something particularly snarky to me or the kids, I get over it. Usually, I get over it without a single word being uttered to the person in the conflict. Sure, sometimes I vent to people like The Husband, but I don't I don't need some big confrontation or a "moment" in order to get closure on the deal.

I just sort of keep walking in a straight line toward the goal line without wavering and eventually, the person I have conflict with is either left behind, catches up with me and walks along without another word, or I keep my blinders on long enough that it doesn't matter where you are walking so long as you don't impede my forward progress. It's a quiet sort of forgiveness.

It's been quite a successful deal so far.

But lately in my spiritual walk, it feels like that mandate in Scripture of forgiving seventy times seven is impossible. I'd rather be crusty and pout and be a child about it, which is human and completely justified, but that's the immature reaction to have, because forgiveness might be the best practical indicator of your spiritual maturity.

Really get this. I'm saying that I think your ability to forgive someone who has legitimately wronged you is a direct measure of your spiritual maturity.

Anyone can serve at church, but can you CONTINUE to serve at church after someone has been ugly to you or even legitimately wronged you? 

Anyone can tithe, but do you CONTINUE to tithe even when it's financially hard or is it has been based in the past on your excess rather than out of your need where it's supposed to be coming from?

Anyone can say, "I love you", but can you forgive a wrong and CONTINUE in love in a relationship (as friends, spouses, child/parent) with the offending party?

I told you it was complicated.

"I love you" is considered the most powerful phrase in the human experience, but "I forgive you" might be the more transforming phrase. "I love you" is largely contingent upon being returned. "I forgive you" is all on you and not on the other party. It's harder. It's dirtier. It's lonelier. And it's the right thing to do, even when you don't feel like it.

Why? Well, God said so. There's that. But it's also because it's the one thing that will eat you alive if you don't extend it to others. There just isn't any power behind your "I love you" if there isn't an accompanying  "I forgive you". They can't exist one without the other. You don't really love someone if you can't forgive them.

So, with all of that said, I forgive you, because I love you.

1 comment:

mom2superkids said...

Very powerful and truthful blog. You touched on the parent/child relationship and thankful my kids know I get tired or in pain and my mind ceases to function logically. I often have to say "I am sorry because I yelled or lost it over something minor." I am blessed that my kids forgive me and are very understanding about my health issues often not even paying attention to stupid things I say on a pain filled day. However as an adult shouldn't I be the one to set that example for my kids? Now I really have some praying to do because you have realky made me think.