Lecture 3 - When Forgiveness is Relevant
Lecture 3: When Forgiveness is Relevant
The more intimate the relationship, the more risk that is involved, and the more likelihood that forgiveness is going to be part of the picture. A pivotal concept is that pain and anger are not the message, just the messenger. When our lives develop cracks, the light of God is able to shine in and heal us. Ron covers the powerful example of a tennis ball, it is relatively small, but when we bounce it around the room it takes up a lot of space. Likewise, when we ruminate about the past, when we rehearse the hurts, they take up bigger and bigger areas of our lives. However, the past was never meant to be in charge of our lives.
A. Disloyalty and Betrayal
Forgiveness becomes relevant when there is disloyalty and betrayal.
B. Heart Laid Bare to Other Folks
We lay our hearts bare to other people and they leave us out there. They use what we laid out, the risking and what they know about us against us. We are hung out there or we are in venerable spot and then people pull back. If we are not venerable, we are probably not impacted in a way that forgiveness is relevant.
2. Greater Risk
So, the more intimate the relationship, the more risk that is involved and the more likelihood that forgiveness is going to be part of the picture. So we give of ourselves and then something happens or doesn’t happen. For people who hold back from venerability and relationships, forgiveness will be less of an item for them. But we have other environs where there are different kinds of relationships. There is our work environment; it might or might not have lots of emotional venerability but the well-being of our family is tied to it. We give of ourselves in that kind of way and then something pulls back and part of that is related to expectations. How do we expect that is going to be? So the person says, I’m asking a lot from you. This is what I’m asking and this is how it is going to be and you have an understanding of what it is going to be like and then they pull back and then you are hung out there. We are talking the potential for forgiveness. We give our hearts to someone in some kind of way. We think of a church setting or a community setting and folks might be praying together; they talk about their lives together and all of a sudden it shows up on the prayer chain! How did that happen and people ask, ‘you don’t want people to pray for you?’ It isn’t about that but instead it is about risk, I trusted and now you have violated my trust. And the betrayal is there. So forgiveness is relevant in those kinds of scenarios. We lay our hearts bare and then people pull back or we lay our hearts bare and then people use it against us. It is a massive betrayal at that point. I have told you this; I have let you in on that and later, you use it against me.
3. Human Responses to Pain
A. How do you think of pain?
And our purely human response to that is to try to get some relief from the emotional pain. We just simply want relief because the pain is all around me. What is your sense of what people tend to do from your own observation?
B. What do you do when you hurt?
What are you familiar with when the emotional pain continues to increase? You take chemicals or alcohol to make the pain go away. The most frequently prescribed medication is an anxiety medicine. Getting angry by verbalizing it or doing something physical or controlling your own environment either through perfectionism or through controlling the events within your environment like relationships and other situations. Part of this is cutting things off and living in your own world. We try to hide away from reality. We respond through emotion instead of through peace and love. So when the pain is intense, these kinds of responses are the things that we do.
C. Think of anger as a messenger
Part of the opportunity for us is when we see that, we think about it as a messenger. I do the behavior myself or I see it in somebody else. It isn’t the message, it is only the messenger. The messenger tells us the amount of pain we are experiencing. I just don’t know if I can continue. So, when I become anxious, I get busy and my house is the clearest it has ever been. It is not about, ‘stop it!’ It is about what it means, what is going on here? For you and me, when that pain intensifies, it is pretty helpful for us to know the things that I can do when my pain increases. What are the indicators for me? And when we are more familiar with ourselves, it isn’t actually that complex. For others to understand, it may be complex for them and sometimes we need people to help us out, but we know ourselves. So, the pain increases, irritability increases and we get short in speaking to people sometimes and the isolation increases. So there is a range of those kinds of things happening.
D. What happens when we tell people about our pain
Sorting out what that means; in other words, what indicators are critical to understand. We can describe a range of things, adding to it or not adding to it. But when the pain has increased, we react. If you translate it to a physical kind of pain; I would like to treat others badly or yell and scream. However, we can have physical pain that we just can’t bear. It is not about getting calm but instead, being able to handle the emotional pain one experiences. It is about understanding what is happening to me and in my observation, when we let people tell us their pain, whoever it is (I’m talking about relationships and intimacy. This is what is happening with me), when we do that people are no longer alone. They are not alone in their pain. And what we can do in our own lives, we can place God in the equation; we acknowledge the pain and we can acknowledge what has occurred. And when we put God into the equation, we experience weakness as an opening to experience God’s mercy. We are not alone at that point whether it is with people or somebody that we can get face to face with. We begin to identify what is actually happening with me. Even though these are fairly simple words, they are hard to do. If I said to two of you, go outside and find a grey car, go to the front of that car, put your hand under the front and lift the car until the tires are off the street. That is a very simple statement; there is nothing confusing about this. But it is really difficult to do, even impossible. So, inviting somebody to participate with you, to say this is what is; this is really difficult to do; easy words but hard to do. And recognizing our weakness, our humanity is a critical piece. It is a fairly easy thing to do, but it is really hard to do. I don’t want this to be happening to me because it is simply too difficult. But it is also part of being human. That business that goes on inside our minds is really not helpful to us because it goes around and around. It begins to move away from a linear cognitive business to just around and around and around.
E. Image of a tennis ball
If I were take a tennis ball and a racket compared to the size of this room, they are fairly small. But if I start hitting that around with a racket, it fills up a fair bit of space. The more I hit it the more space it fills up. The thoughts that go through our minds are like the tennis ball; they are what they are and then when those things start running, they fill up a lot of space.
F. Stop ruminating
And when we experience pain from hurtful events, it is that stuff that we think about early in the morning. You know what that is and we can identify what the content of that is for each of us. If I said, ‘what is that like?’ We are basically having the same experience. It may be a different content, but it runs around. And when we let that run, then it is simply no longer the tennis ball. It is filling space with mass and we start to think that there is something the matter with us. When often, what is happening is simply the messenger. And when we ignore the messenger and say something is the matter with me, which creates a problem for us. So part of the peace, I can’t simply say, ‘hey, it is early in the morning!’ Whatever you are thinking about so early in the morning, it is probably not very useful for you. So if there is something that needs attention, write it down. You are not going to solve anything until you have time to do something about it. So, identifying what is going on and whether one writes something down about it or speaks it to a friend or prays about it. It stops it from going around and around and we can actually get a look at it and so that is a good start. Sometimes just acknowledging it is a way of dealing with it. This sounds really simple, but when we are overwhelmed, it is not the place we go. So, we see the emotion and recognize it and allow ourselves to make that connection. We have our opinions but in the end it is what’s going on about me. To know yourself, the people you are close to and try to learn something about ourselves.
G. Make a commitment to grow, not just in crisis times
The idea that we can’t have these times of feeling overwhelmed and anxious or whatever; to give ourselves permission to have those is significant for us. One such non-biblical point: there is a crack in everything and that is how the light gets in. If we take this into that environment, isn’t this when we are often more ready to hear from God and his Spirit? When our life has cracks in it, we don’t have space for a lot of other things. When the reality of life get experienced, and we allow ourselves to recognize that, we are a lot more open. I think part of maturity and part of what I have worked at in my own spiritual life is the beginning of a commitment that I’m not only going to grow in the crises times. I am also going to grow and give attention to God outside of the crises times. In experiencing several car accidents earlier in life got me to thinking about what life was about. So, these kinds of crises were an invitation to think about my life in how I would live it. I notice when thing were tuff, I became more responsive to God. This is not particularly peculiar. I started to think about having God in my life in such a way that I didn’t need a crisis to be responsive, but when the crises shows up, that is how the light gets in. As compared to saying, this shouldn’t be happening to me, which at one level, it shouldn’t be happening but at the same time that is how life is and those are some of the things that visit us.