We come now to the final post in this short series on forgiveness. Here, we’re going to talk about meeting the requirement (there’s only one) for rightly refusing to forgive.
This is important grist because if we refuse to forgive without possessing this criterion, we open ourselves up to all sorts of psychological and spiritual trouble (see last post).
But before we begin, a caveat. There’s a lot of dangerous stuff being said out there about forgiveness – stuff that puts you in harm’s way if you follow it. I’ll mention just one.
A common teaching is that you haven’t really forgiven unless you are willing to be in relationship with the person. Not only is that not true, it can be harmful.
Let’s face it, some people are cancerous. If you find yourself in the position of needing to forgive such a person for a wrong done you, then for your own wellbeing if nothing else, work toward doing that.
But you don’t have to invite that person and their toxicity into your life going forward. It’s wrong to believe this is the litmus test of whether or not you have truly forgiven the person.
With that being said, let’s get back to our subject. Just what is the criterion for having the right to refuse to forgive a wrong? A good story helps here. (It’s also useful in that it shows the difference between religion and spirituality.)
*A group of religious leaders drag a woman caught in the very act of having sex with a man not her husband. They hunt down Jesus and pull the woman in with them.
Proud as peacocks they confidently tell Jesus that the Law of Moses says this woman should be put to death for her offense. (Rather sexist in their application of the Law, weren’t they. It takes two to tango – even horizontally. They apparently let the man go.)
Their question to Jesus is, What do you say should be done with her?
(Now, they don’t care one whit about this woman or what she was doing. The text makes it very clear that their intent was to trap Jesus so they could put Him to death!)
His reply? Okay, do as the Law says. ONLY… the one among you who is sinless, you throw the first rock (death by stoning).
One by one, each man left until the woman was left standing alone with Jesus.
The question in this post is:
What ya gonna do with that rock?
I have a paving stone that I (literally) picked up on one of my trips to England. I keep this stone on my desk in my office. For myself, I never look at it but what I recall with delight trips abroad.
But it also serves another purpose.
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Sometimes I am with a client who is self-righteously clinging to an offense. I will casually walk over to the other side of my office, just beyond the counseling area where we are seated, and pick the rock up off my desk. I bring it over to my seat with me and just sort of roll it around in a non-distracting way beside me.
Inevitably the client will say something like, What’s with the rock?
I reply, It sounds as if you believe you qualify to cast the first stone, so I just thought I’d get it ready for you.
I’ve yet to have a client fail to get the point.
Back to our criterion, which this post is all about.
You see, the only one who can rightly refuse to forgive an offense is one who never needs to be forgiven.
This is why, at the end of the story above, the woman was left standing alone in front of Jesus… and he forgave her… adding, now change your lifestyle.
As none of us meets this criterion, refusing to forgive ruins us.
I suggest you put the rock down. Doing so is an act of self-care. It’s practicing wellness.
So, what ya gonna do with that rock?
Happy New Year!
* You can read this story in the Gospel of John, chapter 8, verses 1-11.