“Now it is time to forgive him and comfort him. Otherwise he may become so bitter and discouraged that he won’t be able to recover. Please show him now that you still do love him very much.” 2 Corinthians 2:7-8
The Great Divider, the Adversary, has been working his mischief in my life of late. Instead of being loving and forgiving, instead of swallowing my pride and reaching out to others with whom I have a bit of conflict, anger and bitterness have been welling up inside and a part of me is ready to cut all ties, to slam the proverbial door in the faces of those who have recently hurt me. And I know that is definitely NOT God’s plan.
I am speaking of the family conflicts that have arisen these past few months, conflicts that I have blogged about a few times. I’ve tried to keep mum about them as much as possible but my soul is hurting because, people I have trusted above all others, have lied about me, lied to me, and now accuse me of things that they should know better about me…even to questioning my faith in the Lord and my vocation as a minister. I know the Bible says the world will hate me because I am His but I don’t think that’s the motivation behind it.
Or is it?
I am suddenly maligned because I won’t take a side in this family conflict. I cannot. Even if I wasn’t a minister, family is extremely important to me and, the idea of turning my back on any family member, goes against everything I believe in. Yes, I know there are many who come from families where they’ve been abused and seriously mistreated–I can claim some of that myself, coming from an alcoholic home with a stepfather who wanted too much to do with me. So I understand why some would not want to associate with family if such an association only brings more pain. Finding the strength to walk away from that abuse and mistreatment takes courage. I know. I’ve been there. And I respect those feelings in anyone who has or is walking a similar path. For myself, I’ve come around full circle, finding forgiveness for those who have either abused me, or who saw the abuse and did nothing to try and stop it. Forgiveness does not wipe the slate clean, it does not justify the offense, the act, the unkind words, etc. Forgiveness, however, does cleanse the soul–the soul of the person who is finally willing to surrender and offer that forgiveness. Forgiveness takes away the resentment that has built upon our souls, resentment that opens the door for that Great Divider, Lucifer, and gives him free rein to wreak even more havoc in our lives. By choosing to forgive, we open the door to Jesus Christ and allow the healing of our broken and battered souls, minds, spirits and bodies to be complete. I cannot change what has happened in my past. Holding onto that resentment and anger only hurts me more; it doesn’t hurt the people who have hurt me. It doesn’t stab them with guilt so that they want to repent. In fact, holding onto that grudge, that resentment, only gives others a power over us, a power that is not of God’s way, a power that tears us down and makes us less than what we are. In short, by holding onto that resentment and anger, another person can claim a victory over us. As can the Adversary. Forgiveness gives us the Power to heal. It tells that Great Divider to “get thee behind me” in Jesus’ name.
There are countless references in the Bible about forgiveness. And each and every one of them admonishes us to forgive our brethren because, if we do not, our Father in heaven will not forgive us. And, no matter how much I may try to deny it, I am as much a sinner as the next soul. So I am choosing forgiveness.
And yet, there’s still that little voice, the voice of my wounded self, that still wants to snarl and sneer. I am still looking to lash out, to shout at the selfishness of spirit that keeps dividing us. And, as I do so, I am reminded of the entry I read today in my Al-Anon daily reader, Courage to Change: “Other people can be our mirrors, reflecting our better and worse qualities. They can help us to work through conflicts from the past that were never resolved. They can act as catalysts, activating parts of ourselves that need to rise to the surface so that we can attend to them.” What part of this situation is pointing that spotlight back on me?
I want to be liked by everyone. That’s the sin of pride. I have this unrealistic view of that utopian world, a world where everyone gets along and shares only the best of themselves. Would that this world existed, but by trying to force it to be so, I am in danger of doing more harm than good. And I can recognize that abused little girl inside of me that gets violently shaken whenever voices and tensions arise. I hate conflict. I avoid it to my own detriment because I still struggle with how to assert myself. Speaking my mind, speaking up for myself, was not encouraged growing up. And, really, I’m thinking that this is the conflict from my past that has never been resolved. For the first time, I asserted myself in this situation. I refused to allow myself to be bullied into taking a side. Because that’s what was done. I was given an ultimatum and I refused to give in to it. For the first time, I refused to be a nodding doll, holding my tongue about things that I didn’t agree with simply to keep the peace. I’m sure for some family members this has been akin to one of our resident mice suddenly developing fangs and claws to pounce on my cats rather than the other way around. No, I didn’t “pounce”. I asserted myself calmly. But the effect was the same. While I have never been guilty of trading secrets or bad-mouthing anyone behind their back, because I kept silent when others said things that didn’t sit right, I can certainly understand why others might believe I would. “Keeping silent” has hurt people I care about, has hurt me, and it is akin to lying, even if an untruth was never uttered. By keeping silent, I have given a false impression. I’m not sure if this last revelation is that “mirror” talked about in Courage to Change but it is certainly that catalyst activating a part of me that needs to be attended to. While I would wish it otherwise, and while I know I will never be comfortable with loud voices and angry confrontations, it is better to risk that anger, that disagreement, than deliver another shock to someone later on down the line. And maybe, just maybe, I can finally learn to value myself enough to communicate without harm.
May God bless you & keep you!