An ancient story is told of two friends who were taking a trip through the desert. In the course of many discussions, an unusually sharp disagreement arose over a mutually sensitive issue. In a moment of impulsive rage, the one friend slapped the other in the face.
Responding with great restraint and sadness, the man stooped down and wrote in the sand, “Today my good friend slapped me in the face.” and they walked on in strained silence.
Much later arriving at a shaded, cool oasis they decided to take a refreshing bath. After a little bit the one slapped in the face suddenly cried out to his friend. He was stuck in the muddy mire on the other side of the pond and could not escape. Immediately his friend rushed over and with great effort pulled him out, saving him from a slow horrible drowning.
After a short rest, the rescued friend gratefully wrote on a rock, “Today my good friend saved my life from drowning in this mucky pond.”
That evening, as they sat at the camp fire roasting a freshly caught fish, the one asked, “Friend, why is it when I slapped you, you wrote in the sand, but when I saved you from drowning, you wrote on a rock?”
After a short thoughtful pause his friend said, “When offended, it is best to write in the sand where the winds of forgiveness blow it away, and it is more easily forgotten. But, when someone does good to us, it is better to write on a stone where no wind can blow it away, and it is remembered forever” (Author Unknown).
Anger and offense
Our creator gave us our life. Our life is his gift for us to do with. What we do to our self is our own God-given choice. And, we do not have to do wrong to our self just because someone else did wrong to us.
Q: Who does anger and offense hurt the most?
A: The one who is angry.
“But,” you ask. “How can I grasp forgiveness in my heart when I know I’m right and they are terribly wrong?”
Well, if they are angry, we remember that anger hurts whoever is angry. We do not have to respond in anger, hurting our self also. Then there would be two, foolishly hurting themselves.
Anger and offense blisters and scorches our real inner man. The real person inside is burned when we allow offense to inflame us.
This is a type of emotional hari-kari suicide. This is a mini-party of precious people hurting themselves. This is temporary group insanity.
Hateful, insidious evil laughs and wins if it can stir us up to hurting ourselves.
Please. This next statement is so very important.
Forgiveness is merely, not sharing in the offender’s personal “emotional suicide party.” Forgiveness is, loving them and our self enough to not allow their inner flame to ignite in our soul. That spark could cause a forest fire of human souls with us included.
Putting out the flames
Perhaps the insidious evil of offense and anger is the primary spark of war, starting in one soul.
Q: Who does forgiveness restore?
A: The one who is offended and angry.
Forgiveness is not for the other person first; it is for us first. Once we are restored, then we may be able to help the other person as well.
And here is one more extraordinary little known secret.
There is a way to use forgiveness to not allow the burning flames of emotional soul-anger to ever reach us. When used properly, it can powerfully shield us from our soul ever being burned again.
How is this? Each morning we can forgive every offense in advance. During that day the fires of anger cannot reach us. Maybe, just maybe, our shield of forgiveness can help bring restoration to others as well, all day long.
So, forgiveness can both restore and protect.
Who does forgiveness restore? First, it restores our own inner self. Only then can we reach out and offer restoration to someone else.
Who does forgiveness protect? It protects those who use it in advance.
I wonder. Is the fuel source of the flaming fires of eternal hell, unforgiven offense and anger…held forever? No wonder unforgiveness has to have a separate community to its self, not allowed in heaven.
No wonder God always forgives sincere repentance, always, right away.
No wonder Jesus said, “When you stand praying, forgive!”
So we pray, “Lord God, please forgive me my trespasses as I daily forgive those who trespass against me.”
Our very life depends on what we do to ourselves inside.
Thank you for your emails and kind comments. Your thoughts are welcome and appreciated.
Steve Davis, Ed.S. is an education specialist and adjunct professor at Trinity International University. He writes about personal development and education and can be reached at [email protected].