It's nearly the holiday season again, and my annual holiday preparations have to include some mental and spiritual preparations to spend time with my extended family. (Some previous posts on the topic include: Returning good for evil: forgiveness struggles #2, Scroll of remembrance, Christian response to backhanded compliments, and Christian response to backhanded compliments: reprise.)Where I'd left off last year (the "reprise" post), I'd figured out that I should plan in advance for "intentional goodwill", rather than just reacting to the position-jockeying and dueling grievances as they occurred, and armed with nothing more than a wish that peaceful intentions would suffice.
I think that, just like I would never go for a road trip without packing an overnight bag, and like I would never go for the week's groceries without a shopping list, I should probably not be around my relatives without having made any preparations. So what St Paul said about love, "Love keeps no record of wrongs" -- I think love even goes farther. It doesn't just overlook the wrongs. It also keeps a record of kindnesses that another person has done. Now, that part about "keeping a record" could be misunderstood. Love doesn't pursue goals of accounting for kindnesses, or earning repayment, or comparison of goodness, or anything like that. It keeps a record of good for the purposes of remembering. "If there is anything good ... think on these things." When we are kind to someone else, we hope they remember; we hope it makes a difference. In the spirit of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," it seems best to remember when others are kind to us. And when we remember, it seems best to do it better than haphazardly, but to study the good that another person has done, to refresh it in the memory as deliberately as we would make an effort to remember an important appointment, or material for a school quiz. (Even average students routinely remember 70% or better of material they have made an effort to know. But I have a feeling that, when it comes to remembering other peoples' kindnesses, sometimes I remember a lower percentage than that. Especially when there have been unkindnesses that threaten to erase the better memories. The good memories have to be carefully refreshed after a falling out.) And so I'm not too proud to make notes (privately, of course) -- just to help me remember the good things.
So this year, in addition to making sure I re-read the "Scroll of remembrance" I wrote about one relative a few years back, I probably need to write a couple more scrolls remembering the kindnesses of other relatives as part of my holiday preparations. I cannot even begin to tell you how strongly my worse nature is rebelling at the thought of writing down a remembrance of the kindnesses from certain people, when it is far easier to remember the fully intentional unkindnesses. But the kindnesses were intentional too. And in a world where God has shown forgiveness as the path to the world's rebirth, I'm going to have to learn better.