I’m taking a step away from my traditional political observations and for the next week or two and I will
share express what is on my heart write about something a little more oriented towards the Spirit.
We’ve all seen it played out in literature, on television, and in the movies. Two former antagonists come to terms with each other and it all ends in a big, tearful hug. Spouses, friends, relatives – a healing occurs and we vicariously share their joy.
Real life often provides less of a sense of closure.
The Human Experience
You’ve been on both sides, and so have I – the need to forgive and the need to be forgiven is a common thread running through every living human.
Forgiving someone who is contrite can be incredibly satisfying, flooding us with a cocktail of dopamine fueled emotions: joy, relief, and the all-familiar paradox of pride and humility. This is an easy version of Christianity.
A few years ago I returned from teaching a seminar to the California National Guard in the Napa Valley region (yes, they have an armory tucked away there). The traffic at the Philadelphia Airport was what you would expect. After pulling my bag off the carousel, I went to the curb outside the terminal. Ten minutes later, Staff Sergeant Jones pulled up in one of our unit’s vans. He was flustered, completely angry with himself for being late. As we pulled out of the airport, I tried to assure him that it was all right. Truth be told, it was all right. Among other variables, I was grateful for not having to go find my car in the airport’s garage. This was not a big deal. Yet he wasn’t having it. He responded full of self-recriminations, so I immediately took another tact: “How about this?” I asked giving him the ‘hand of peace,’ palm facing outward, “You’re forgiven.” The effect was immediate. He relaxed, and we had a great ride to Fort Dix, talking shop and plans for the coming weekend. As for me personally, I took great satisfaction in being able to talk the man down. He was, and I suspect still is a decent human being with a tremendous work ethic.
Getting Over Myself
Now, forgiving strangers? Again, that’s easy. It’s Sunday Morning Nightclub with just a pinch of our Savior for flavor. Most offenses are small, anyway. If the clerk at Turkey Hill is just a little too familiar with me, I don’t freeze in my tracks. I don’t give him or her the icy stare. And I certainly have never, nor will I ever ask, “don’t you know who I am?” Mostly because The Almighty has already dealt with me on this issue (‘You’re one of countless thousands of retired Army officers who didn’t get a call from CNN or Fox, that’s’ who you are.” Lieutenant of The Ash, as the ancient Greeks would say – in charge of nothing except the oar you pull).
So if the clerk calls me chief, buddy, or worse – nothing at all – and gives an exasperated “yes?” when I reach the counter, we do what comes naturally. We shrug it off; give him or her our best gregarious smile, and the non-incident his forgotten by the time the key is turned in the ignition.
That being said, you know what’s coming:
What about friends and family members? Those who don’t think they need to be forgiven? You know, those people.
Now that gets a little complicated. Give me the weekend to order my thoughts a little further on the subject. In the meantime, I welcome this discussion. Please leave a comment. I am really interested in what you have to say.
Ready Part Two in this series on Spiritual Maturity.
In the meantime you can follow me on twitter: @manningthewall.