Lecture 2 - Forgiveness: What it is and what it is not
Lecture 2: What It Is And What Is Is Not
When we decide not to forgive, our future is pretty fixed. It will narrow our possibilities and will be followed by bitterness and destruction. Ron also discusses what forgiveness is not, and when forgiveness is not relevant.
1. One Of The Most Naturally Gifted Leaders in the Bible
I want you to consider who the most naturally gifted leader in Scripture is, in the Old Testament or New Testament. I don’t mean whose life God impacted so that they would be a great leader. I’m saying to think about their resume that shows up that says wow; this person is gifted, this person has ability. This person can lead and can have influence; this person can make things happen. I came up with someone; you might come up with a different person. For a person like Moses, well, he can’t even talk, so it can’t be him. We can see all kinds of ways how God has intervened in people’s lives. But a gifted leader, somebody who really had all the tools; leaders needed to look good, for example. Scripture talks about the person’s appearance very clearly in terms of what was valuable. The culture that we are in today; we have an idea of what kind of appearance is important. Within different cultures, you may have different appearances: body sizes and shapes; it changes from culture to culture. In biblical times, it was a male and he looked good. He had a good image and lots of discernment. People would actually come to the gates of the city and talk to that person and present things to him such as problems and concerns; the ethics weren’t always the best but he certainly had leadership abilities. So he had discernment and people followed him and then what raised him up for me even more, he had a compassionate heart. To me, that is part of being a good leader. It is not the only piece but it is part of the picture. The person I have in mind is Absalom. He did some pretty rotten things and at the same time when I look at 2nd Samuel 13; I look at his life, particularly as it relates to a critical event in the palace in King David’s world. A really horrible thing happened, horrible by any measure in any culture at any time. There was a woman called Tamar, a man called Amnon, and another person called Jonadab and also King David. The Bible says that Amnon loved Tamar and what his love involved, was the desire to have sex with Tamar. And Amnon didn’t know how to make this happen and so he talks to Jonadab and tells him what he wants to do. This was time to do something seriously about this, like warning Tamar and telling the King, a time for action. That is not what Jonadab does though. Jonadab and Amnon have a conversation about how Amnon could make this happen. This was very bad.
So, the plan involves Amnon pretending that he is sick and there are people who are concerned, including King David and they ask Amnon what he needs. What do you want? He replied saying that he would like Tamar to come and cook him a meal and feed me. That is what happens. So she comes to cook him a meal and then the Bible explicitly says that Amnon ask everyone to leave and they do and then he raped Tamar. Then the Bible tells us that Amnon hated her more than he loved her. We are talking about lust here. He was a bad guy in every way and then the passage goes on to describe King David’s response. So David was angry and did nothing else. Then comes Absalom who brings Tamar into his house; she now has a place to be, a safe place. When Absalom has a daughter, he names her Tamar and now the name is back; Absalom makes it happen, but King David only got angry; he did nothing. And it appears Absalom eventually got even and it takes him about two years to get even. He is clear about justice, he is not the chief justice but he decides to make it happen and makes sure that Amnon is killed. He doesn’t do it himself but he gets others to do it that is responsible to him. And from my perspective in those two years, Absalom moves from bitterness and vengeance and he destroys himself. So here was this discerning and fairly wise skilled person that people follows and then over the two years, he plays the tape over and over again and decides on vengeance and destroys himself. He lets the vengeance destroy him.
2. When We Decide Not to Head in the Forgiveness Direction
When we decide not head in the forgiveness direction, the outcome is fairly clear. We can’t predict the exact behavior but it is going to be down-hill, it’s going to narrow the possibilities in a person’s life with bitterness and destruction follows that contrasting against what could be.
So for nice and caring people, thoughtful and wise people, life continues to happen and we get to set the direction. I’m not saying to you that you should forgive; instead I’m saying that we have some choices about that and they are really hard choices. They are not logical choices; they don’t make sense. When I have a difficult kind of experience, that is not the first thing that comes to mind; there is a significant peace in moving our lives forward. How do we want to live and as that tape gets replayed, the choice is what kind of direction I want to have. What do I want the outcome to be? So from that sense, we have pretty significant choices.
3. Unresolved Debts
If we simply let those debts continue to be past due, they will take us over and they will set the direction for our lives. This means that the person or the thing or the event or those who talk about fate, however it is conceptualized; that now takes over the present and creates the future. This is a problem from a safe perspective, putting other people in charge of our lives is a problem. Putting our past in charge of our present and future is a problem. And what feels right at the time doesn’t get it done. It sets us in the direction that has potential to destroy us like it did Absalom. That is why I want to talk to you about this. I don’t know you individually, what I do know is that we experience life, we experience the impact of other people on us, acts of commission and acts of omission; things people didn’t do that they needed to do. That impacts us and then how do we move ourselves forward; what does that look like?
4. What Forgiveness Is Not
A. Excusing or minimizing
So I want to talk about what forgiveness isn’t. I have a few themes here, not so much in discrete areas, but we have various things to happen to us in our lives and there is a range of ways that we respond to them. Sometimes we just say that wasn’t a big deal. We minimize it and just say that it wasn’t that bad. If we minimize it or excuse it and it is actually simply that, then it is. So if it is something that you or I minimize or excuse and then it goes away; that is not about forgiveness. So it is not a place where forgiveness needs to visit or it is something that we simply.
Some of us are better at forgetting than others. You think how could you forget that? But some people simply forget, don’t go back and dig up things that you have forgotten. There are things that do happen that you forget about and then move on. So forgiveness is not an issue.
C. Smoothing things out
Or we have people in our lives that smooth things out, especially in the family where things happen and in an organization where things happen. By definition, part of the role of a manager is to smooth things out. They say that it wasn’t that big a deal, it will be fine and that is what happens, etc. When our kids were younger, there was something about being in the front seat of the car, whether they are riding with dad or riding with mom, different ones would yell ‘shot gun’, I get the front seat. The debate about who should be in the front goes on for miles afterward. You smooth things out, giving different ones different options, etc.
D. Denial of emotional pain when you are boiling
Forgiveness is not about denial and emotional pain; it is not denial of what is happening and has happened.
E. Dependent of the choice of someone else
Critically, forgiveness isn’t dependent on the choice of somebody else. We are not waiting for somebody else before we can forgive. Why do I say this? If we are waiting for that, now we are putting other people in charge of us again. I can’t do this because of where I’m at; but it is not about somebody else.
And then it is not synonymous with reconciliation. If I am forgiving then you may have people come to you and say; have you forgiven so and so? This then means that we are all good now, right? Everything is now okay. That is not necessarily what happens. Sometimes, the person whom we have forgiven is not alive anymore or geographically lives somewhere else. Sometimes, the person whom we are forgiving, are not nice people and they are not interested, and so if we are waiting for them then reconciliation is a problem. It can be but those things are not synonymous. So forgiveness is not those kinds of things.
5. When Is Forgiveness Not Relevant?
And then there are situations where forgiveness isn’t relevant. If you work in a work shop or kitchen, but you like tools but there are certain things that tool can’t do.
There are places where forgiveness isn’t relevant. And part of what I notice, people try to often apply forgiveness to settings where it isn’t relevant. Forgiveness just doesn’t work. I tried to forgive but it doesn’t change anything.
C. Bumps and bruises of life
Bumps and bruises of life can be like that. Some things are simply part of life; certain run in’s that you have where forgiveness isn’t relevant. And then if we try and forgive each other, nothing much is changed. These things are related to our faith lives but not our forgiveness lives. They are related to the 1st Corinthians material, the fruits of the Spirit: patience, kindness, gentleness, long suffering and the list continues. So when we apply forgiveness to those kinds of themes, it doesn’t make any difference because it is not relevant and nothing gets better. So, the day to day peace that surrounds those things isn’t forgiveness items.