Forgiveness: Which is Harder?
Which is harder? Owning my own stuff – my meanness, thoughtlessness, judgementalism… and asking for forgiveness? Or is it harder to wipe the slate clean and let someone completely off the hook when they have really hurt me? I’m not sure…
I find myself more willing and able to see my own fallenness and less surprised too. Jerkiness might be a more appropriate word than “fallenness.” (Actually, there are stronger words that you can’t put on a blog.) But over time, it is clearer and clearer to me that I am not nearly as nice, kind and loving as I once thought.
I used to fight seeing my sin more than I do now. It’s still hard, when I am caught in the moment. But the general outlook on my own heart has shifted over time. I’m really not a very good guy. And that does leak out in spite of my best efforts to kill it or hide it. “I do the things I don’t want to do. And I don’t do the things I want to do.” It’s just true. Paul’s words in Romans 7:24 give me words too – “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
The “aha” moment for me was finding out that the word “wretched” can mean “helpless.” I often feel that way about my sinfulness. I can’t stop it.
That leads me in two directions. The first is to my need for Jesus and His sacrifice for me. I can’t make my sin go away and try as I may, I am not improving as much I want. The second is owning it with the person I have hurt. Most often that is Lynne. Can I quickly come back and say “I was mean. Will you forgive me?” I really need forgiveness – more often than I ever imagined.
But I struggle on the other side too. When someone hurts me, and then owns it and asks for my forgiveness, can I really let them off the hook? The challenge to forgive shows itself most in the heat of battle. When Lynne or someone else is in the midst of “attacking” (it feels like that), do I bring up (again) the offenses of the past that I thought I had forgiven her? Those offenses seem like the best weapons that I have. But forgiveness means I had put them away. It means that I officially let her “off the hook”, wiped the slate clean, marked her as if they had never happened.
And yet in that moment, they come flooding back to me. And they seem, sinfully so, as really effective weapons in this “war.” So the question then becomes, did I really forgive – or just make peace?
I want to be a man who may remember the hurt, but refuses to use it again. I want to believe God is big enough in that moment that I don’t need or want to use that as a weapon. I want in that moment to be aware of the choice, rather than simply reacting. And sometimes God is kind, makes me aware, and gives me a mustard seed of faith to believe that He will get us through it without resorting to that offensively defensive weapon.
Which is harder? Probably whichever one I am facing at the moment. I bet that’s true for you too.
Palmer Trice is an ordained Presbyterian minister. He is married to Lynne, has three children and has been in Charlotte since 1979. In his spare time, Palmer enjoys golf, tennis, walking and reading.