The Economy of Forgiveness

Aaron’s uncle posted an article on Facebook that I will encourage every one of you to read. It can be found here: http://www.mbird.com/2015/09/from-the-magazine-the-losing-economy-of-forgiveness/ It is long and full of concepts that may be hard to understand. But it is truly a wonderful read. If you want to spare yourself some time, I will likely sum up the gist of it in this post.

The topic is forgiveness and how rarely humans truly give it. According to the Bible, forgiveness and love go hand-in-hand (Luke 7:47). That’s common knowledge and something we have heard many times. But if we truly analyze the principles that make up love, as described in the Bible, and apply those same words to forgiveness, would we be surprised?

Love is described in 1 Corinthians 13 in a beautiful way. I will take each trait of love and replace it with forgiveness. Ponder if you truly feel you can say these things are true in your life.

Forgiveness is patient, forgiveness is kind. It does not envy, boast, and is not proud. It does not dishonor others, is not self-seeking, is not easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs. Forgiveness does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, trusts, hopes, and preserves.

Did that step on any toes? For me personally, the ones of being patient, not self-seeking, and keeping no record of wrongs really hit home.

Often times I find myself “giving” forgiveness as if I am handing out candy at Halloween. “Oh here, have some forgiveness.”     It’s certainly not that easy.

Sure, I may truly think I forgave someone, but then I find myself being frustrated by the traffic on the highway or the guy at Wendy’s who got my order wrong. I must realize that forgiving the big things will lead to forgiving the small things. If I truly haven’t forgiven my friend or family member who has wronged me, I am just harboring bitterness which will find an outlet elsewhere in my life. By extending forgiveness to those around us, we develop a different mindset. As it says in the article, “The world is no longer our own personal villain, but an unpredictable place full of people like us.” Remember that. The world is FULL of people just like us. That, in itself, deserves some grace because sweet Lord, that means there are many out there who are stretched thin, tired, pushing the envelope and a deadline.

Why then, is it so hard to forgive others? Put like that, it should be easy right?!  Forgiveness means surrendering the control we all too often pretend we have. This means the first thing I must do is ADMIT that things are beyond my control! Oh yeah, not happening.

I think this maybe one of the things in life I struggle with most. Relinquishing MY control over MY life to someone, anyone, else other than ME. In order to forgive someone, I must admit that I was not in control of their actions, thoughts, or words. I have to admit that each person has their own choice. And that means sometimes the choices they make affect me in a negative way. Obviously, if I had control of the situation or individual, they would not have done said thing that now requires forgiveness.

This also leads to the premise that much of our unforgiveness stems from a longing for and resentment at a world that doesn’t exist. Since we don’t have control over the world, it isn’t perfect in our eyes. Period. However, this doesn’t stop us from wanting that to be the case. There are millions of books sold and therapists seen in order to find the secret to creating the perfect life. It’s extremely hard for us, as individuals, to even grasp the concept that sometimes our good actions and intentions will go unwarranted to those around us.

The author brings up a valid point. In order to forgive, we must let go of our anger, which is often a hard thing to do. This is because often times we believe we benefit from our anger. It is like a self-fulfilling prophecy, a never-ending circle. He says, “Forgiving acknowledges the severity of the problem and surrenders its need to fix it.” It means being able to look at a person or situation that we don’t like, and accepting that fact that we don’t like it, but can’t change it. It’s tough. It’s like saying, “Even though you were an asshole, it’s not my problem; it’s your problem, and I’m not going to stay mad at you, because that’s you, not me.” WOW! If only I could view things from this perspective, life would be a lot happier place! Instead I find myself angry at the “asshole” instead of just accepting the harsh reality that someone did something I didn’t like.

How long should we continue to forgive? How many times is enough? When are we allowed to throw in the towel? The answer Christ gives us is never. Never. Ever. Our duty as his people is to constantly and unequivocally continue to forgive one another.

The biblical story of the prodigal son is known by Christians and nonbelievers alike. A son strays from his family, spending their money, tarnishing the family name, seeming to have no remorse for his actions. One day he finds himself returning home, scared of the reaction he will face when he does so. However, as a perfect example, we are told that he was forgiven.  When you think about it, it is a story of incredible restraint—all that hurt, all the wasted money, all the waiting. But none of that. There is instead only the embrace and the robe and the fatted calf. That is the kind of forgiveness we are called, mandated, to give.

The lack of forgiveness seen in our society is a large part of the reason that our country is going down the drain. I appreciate the justice system and fully understand and believe in our power as a people to exercise such rights. However, there are some things that we do that have been proven to be ineffective. Yet we continue to do so. Now if that’s not moronic, I don’t know what is. For example, how many people do each of us personally know that has been in trouble with the law because of some type of affiliation with drugs? Though some will argue the punishments for such offenders are not strong enough, other times they throw these people under the jail. I find myself asking, what good does that do?

I have a cousin who is a good guy, a loving father. He isn’t the most educated or successful business person, but he works hard. Yet he can’t seem to shake his drug habit. This causes the chemistry in his brain to react in a negative way and causes him to do things he otherwise wouldn’t do. I am not excusing his behavior in any form. However, I would think that if the system would extend him some mercy and grace and help him get clean, rather than throw him in jail with other substance users, he may be a little more likely to stay clean once he gets out.

We can lock up our enemies or try one more “tough love” measure, but not only will the measure fail us in the long run, it will eventually close off the roads to any kind of heartfelt reconciliation or hope. 

I will end this post with a thought from the article that I found most compelling.

Within the realm of grace, nothing is earned, but everything is given. 

I have received grace time and time again. I will continue to receive it every day of my life. I did not earn it. I do not deserve it. There is nothing I could do to either lose it or have more of it. I am supplied with the exact amount that I need for the day, no more, no less. If I receive such lucrative bounty from my Father in Heaven, can I not extend it to my fellow man as well? After all, we are all living together in this unpredictable place, and we are all alike in more ways than we realize.