Be relentlessly forgiving. (Matthew 18:22)
Oh boy, what a message, right?! Be relentlessly forgiving. That’s a tough one for me, especially if I see people hurt people I love. I tend to find it easier to forgive those who have hurt me, but mess with my children, or my mom, or my husband and it’s on! My anger will surge to the forefront faster than you can turn around and let me tell you, I’m not one to mince words. I’m very forthcoming and not afraid to stand up for others.
That said, it’s not in my nature to hold grudges. I prefer to be happy. I prefer to see others happy and regardless of the offense, I truly believe each of us is capable of goodness and I try hard to see that goodness in people I meet.
I also do believe there is a time to let go and even Jesus says so in Matthew 18: 15-17. He says we should talk with the person one on one and if they don’t listen, bring in witnesses. If he still doesn’t listen, bring in the church. If he doesn’t listen then, to let him go. I think what this means is we can only do so much to make things right between others and ourselves. However, the circumstance has nothing to do with whether or not we forgive the person.
We can forgive them and still let them go.
I know I have had a hard time with this. I tend to think of my children as MY children. My mother as MY mother. My friend as MY friend. This labeling of people as mine sometimes spreads from a simple identifier to almost like a sense of ownership. Like a two-year old with a stuffed bear, I am screaming MINE, MINE, MINE! I think this clingy behavior stems from a fear of abandonment and a lack of a solid spiritual foundation.
The fact is, none of our loved ones are OURS, not even the ones we squeeze out of our own bodies. Each of us belongs to God and sometimes we can let that false sense of control create unnecessary tension in our relationships. I know I have. I have felt jealous when a friend has canceled with me to spend time with someone else. I have felt lonely when I’ve had a rare free day and no one has time to get together. I have felt ignored and unworthy when my hard work has not been acknowledged. I’ve felt FOMO for sure, more times than I can count.
The bottom line is this: I have forgotten that I am loved.
By nature, humans are social creatures and because of this, we long for social interactions with others. We are also very territorial. Even as people are protesting a wall in America, they build fences and lock their front doors, and roll up their windows as they drive to the corner where the homeless man holds up his cardboard sign. We say, “This is my space in the world and I choose who I want to share it with.” We long to control this physical world we live in and while this is fine, we sometimes forget that there is more to us than that. We attempt to control what’s around us in an attempt to console what’s going on inside us.
We are like the disciples who couldn’t heal the little child, because of their lack of faith. We know we’re spiritual beings. We know there is more to us than what we look like, who we know, what we do for a living, and what we own, but we lack the faith of our convictions and so we cling to the ephemeral. We attempt to control others and struggle to maintain our relationships with unintended manipulation, because we lack faith.
I’m learning that I’m better off to be relentlessly forgiving. It removes the weight I have to carry in this world. It frees others of the weight I put on them and it frees space for Love to come in and heal my heart.
Forgiveness makes room for Jesus, who tells us quite simply: Trust & have faith.
There are times when forgiveness is really hard for me. I’ve been hurt many times and very deeply, to be honest. I can’t count the number of nights I’ve cried myself to sleep over past hurts. At times like this, I remember what Thich Nhat Hanh said about forgiveness. He basically said that hurt people, hurt people. If we consider the hurt person’s life from a beautiful, innocent child, through all her hurts, it’s easier to understand, empathize, and thus forgive her. No one is born hurting others. We may be born selfish (This is MY stuffed bear!), but if you watch children, they are generally very kind and empathetic to one another. We learn to be cruel. We learn to hurt people when we are hurt by people. When we consider this, it makes forgiveness easier. I think Jesus was easily able to see this in others and thus He was able to be relentlessly forgiving.
Does this mean it’s okay for others to hurt us simply because they hurt? No. But I no longer see this as my weight to carry. That’s their business. My business is my own heart and I prefer the freedom of forgiveness over the prison of bitterness. For today, I choose to be relentlessly forgiving.