Thursday, July 23, 2009

How to forgive

I think I learned a lesson in forgiveness. There are occasions in which a good friend of mine will stop talking to me, for no apparent reason. Well people don't just do that. There is a reason. Something that I don't realize that I did. If the person would tell me, then perhaps I could explain, or apologize, or mend my ways and stop doing whatever it is that made the person stop talking to me. But they don't do that. They hold a grudge. Now of course this is completely unfair to me since I am at people's whims about whether or not they will just up and decide to hate me one day. But then I have to ask myself, do I want to be friends with a passive aggressive person like that? So I move on. But the issue remains. Why don't they forgive.

It's easy to point at other people and tell them that they do something wrong and should change their ways. But sometimes you realize that the other person is the man in the mirror. So I've been examining forgiveness in my own heart. It stems from this deal with complaining. I have a couple of blog posts regarding complaining. I don't think that complaining for valid reasons is wrong. In fact I think people complein far too little. See my blog post about why I think this way. But there is an attitude today of exhuberant forgiveness. Now, on the one hand we are commanded by scripture to forgive as Jesus did. On the other hand we can't just let people get away with everything they do to us. Spare the rod you know. Rude people need to learn that they are rude. And yes, many rude people know it, but I would say that the majority of rude people are not on the extremes. There is just a general ignorance of common courtesy and etiquette these days, and this is something that we all should hold one accountable for. So these kinds of complaints, let 'em rip.

But what about when someone really does you wrong? How can you forgive someone for really changing the direction of your life? Well, the answer came to me when I was examining the concept of free will. See, a lot of people believe that free will is an illusion. They say that everything you do or say is predestined, not necessarily by God (although some do say that), but by circumstance. When you round a corner, you bumping into someone has a lot to do with your speed, their speed, your concentration, theirs, the vector, the diameter of the arc that you are turning, the center of that arc. There are in fact more variables to the intersection of your two paths than we can imagine... because you must also consider why were you 2 feet away from the wall? Why were they running? There are so many factors that determine what we do it's a wonder that we even feel that we have any free will. I am on the fence about free will. If it weren't for Christianity I probably would abandon the idea of free will altogether, for what just God would send you to hell if you couldn't prevent it?

So I began wondering how Jesus would deal with some forgiveness issues, and why. And I realized that Jesus would not only know what someone did, but exactly why. He knew why a woman committed adultery. He knew why someone committed murder. He knows why we do the things we do. In fact, it's possible that he knows that we don't have enough free will to do the things that we should, and maybe that is why he is able to forgive all of mankind. Then it clicked. I can do the same thing! All I have to do is assume that the other person lscked the free will to do what was right.

So if you want to forgive someone, but don't know how to justify it, consider this. Even if you do believe in free will, imagine that the other person didn't have enough free will when they did you wrong. If free will exist, I do believe that it is variable. Some people have more free will than others. In fact this is the way in which I define morality. So I assume that the other person's level of free will was so diminished that they couldn't help but to do me wrong. Then I search for reasons to explain why they did the thing they did. They didn't realize. They weren't brought up right. They are young and immature. They were having a bad day. They assumed that I was the bad guy. Their feelings were too involved. Once you begin to believe that the other person is just as innocent as you, then it becomes easier to forgive them.

That is what I am planning on doing from now on. When someone does me wrong, I'm not going to just say, "I forgive you." First, they might take it wrong. They might think that I am being passive aggressive myself. I still have to let them know what they did to me. Second, if I don't tell them what they did wrong, they can't learn a lesson from it. This is just like your first day on the job and you take a coffee break for 15 minutes and company policy is 10 minutes. The boss tells you "I know you don't know our policy so it's okay this one time that you took 15 minutes, but from now on you need to limit your breaks to 10 minutes." So that is what I plan on doing. I'll let them know that they did me wrong. I'll tell them that we are still friends, but please don't do it again. And an apology would be nice.

This is what Jesus would do I think. If not, I pray that He lets me know.

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