F. Neil Folks: God’s projects — Accepting others as they are
It is said that holding a grudge can be hazardous to your health.
When we hold grudges or resentments from the past towards someone, this hidden emotional endeavor masks or shrouds our heart and it loses its ability to feel and love again, the loss of empowerment.
Not only does it suppress the immune system, it creates dysfunctional relationships and situations. Both end in bad health — mentally, physically and spiritually. We fail to see what Jesus attempted to teach the Jews: “See your enemies, not as God’s failures, but as God’s works in progress.” While we are in the throws of anger, vindictiveness, “ouches” and resentments, we fail to see the hurting face of the Christ in others, the same face that’s in us.
Because we are conscious of our own pain, we cannot or even refuse to hear and feel the similar pain in others. Our perceptions are very much one way — me, me, me. Usually, both parties are clamoring to be heard—won’t somebody listen to my pain, both having most likely the same origin of cause.
Holding onto such vindictive processes creates a severe drain on our energy budget. We are consumed, so to speak, in getting even with those who may have hurt us. Our minds are almost totally preoccupied with the process of revenge, leaving little time for creative work for humanity.
So, what do we need to do? Jesus forgave humanity from the cross: “Forgive them Father for they know not what they are doing.”
This is what is required of us also. In the process, we are to pray for those who have hurt us. Forgiveness is one of the most powerful tools we have to reformat the template of our being, rewrite the script, brothers and sisters.
Enemy destroyers need two graves. “It is foolish to harbor a grudge” (Eccles. 7:9). An eye for an eye becomes a neck for a neck and a job for a job and a reputation for a reputation. When does it stop? It’ll stop either with both parties being in the grave or one imitates a God-dominated mind.
Besides, who assigned us the task of vengeance? Maybe we should be like King David when he was having trouble with Saul.
He declared, “May the Lord decide between you and me. May the Lord take revenge on you for what you did to me. However, I will not lay a hand on you.” What we seem not to realize is that if we lay a hand on our enemy — and this goes with the sexual abusers as well — we have their blood on our hands and the action makes us like them.
This creates a bond made of 5/16-inch chain-link that binds us to them. We then create our own prison and they are in it with us.
When we refuse to forgive someone who has wronged us, we mobilize our own inner criminal justice system to punish the offender. We hold back from God that which should be his wrath.
“God, I’ll take care of it. I am afraid you may punish too little or too slowly. I’ll take this matter into my hands, thank you.” We don’t seem to, in today’s society, realize that God occupies the only seat on the supreme court of heaven.
As the judge and jury, we attempt to sentence the person to a long prison term without parole and incarcerate him or her in a prison that we constructed from the bricks and mortar of a hardened heart.
Now as jailer and warden, we must spend as much time in prison as the prisoner.
Revenge removes God from the equation. Only God assesses accurate judgments and dispenses the perfect justice. Yes, it is hard to leave our enemy, particularly the child sex molester, in God’s hands. We are still requested to forgive them and to pray for them.
Forgiving them is not endorsing their misbehavior. We can hate what someone did to us without letting hatred consume us. Forgiveness is not excusing. Nor is forgiveness pretending. God says “Give grace, but if need be, keep your distance.” Forgiveness at its core is choosing to see your offender with different eyes (“Facing Your Giants,” Max Lucado).
To forgive is to move on by going back and making peace with the wound, which makes it sacred and causes it to heal and then, we move forward into a new life where we can feel, love and live well.
The process of forgiveness is not excusing him, endorse her or embrace them. We just route thoughts about them through heaven. We learn to see them as a hurting child of God and they are also a work in progress.
Humanity is not perfect by any measure of the soul. We ask for God’s grace and receive it and we are asked to give the same. Forgiving another’s deed against us requires forgiving ourselves for our complicity in the affair.
Once we can give the forgiveness to others and forgive ourselves, which is usually the hardest part of this equation, the process — and it is a process — it empowers our heart to feel and love once again.
“Through an act of atonement, I become one with the person I have wronged or who has wronged me, and forgiveness releases both of us to lives of greater love” (From “Age-ing to Sage-ing,” by Zalman Schachter-Shalomi).