Thursday, January 04, 2007

Return good for evil: Forgiveness struggles #2

Last post, I took stock of bitterness and resentment taking root in my life. I asked you all to bear with me, that there was a good purpose to this.

As far as rooting out this kind of spiritual poison, Jesus taught some things that, the more I work with them, the more I realize just how practical they are.

The first thing is to pray for those who mistreat us. The list of people who get on my nerves is a prayer list. I should pray for them particularly for God's goodness and blessing. I should give thanks for any good in them in particular. I should pray that I have patience and God's Spirit towards them in particular. This probably does more to change my attitude towards them than anything else. Left to my own devices, my "solution" is to grit my teeth at injustice and to hope they see the good in me. Meanwhile I do not see the good in them, and resentment, self-righteousness, and hard-heartedness grow freely. Prayer is the place to start.

The second thing is to do for them what I wish they would do for me. It is sometimes difficult to imagine what nice thing I should do for someone who is wronging me -- until I ask myself, "How do I wish they were treating me?" I can easily tell you how I wish they were treating me; that is what I should do for them. That is how to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" for this situation, and how to return good for evil.

So below I run through each of the things that are bothering me and try to see how to repay good for evil, and make it my goal to do these things for the people in question.
What's bothering meAs I would have them do to me
  • For pouncing on every mistake I make, no matter how small, and overlooking anything I do right, no matter how large or difficult
  • For regularly refusing to be more than coldly polite
  • For often refusing to be even coldly polite
  • Although we need to work with each other to get through the day, being pointedly uncooperative and seeming to delight in making things difficult
  • In sum, for treating me unjustly and with seeming hatred no matter what I do
  • Make sure to notice when they do something right, and if any mistakes must be noticed, notice them with gentleness
  • Be genuinely warm
  • Be cooperative and delight in making things easier
  • In sum, treat her justly and with kindness no matter what she does
  • For keeping me at arm's length even though we are family
  • For believing every story told about me without checking whether it is accurate
  • For making all Christian holidays unpleasant by pointed, hostile "indifference"
  • Be welcoming and open
  • Be slow to believe the worst and quick to believe better
  • Make sure never to treat with indifference, instead making a point of appreciating
  • For avoiding family occasions
  • For rehearsing stories of every wrong thing I've done even back to elementary school, and in front of other people who do not know first-hand whether the stories as retold are fair or accurate; in effect training certain other people to dislike me and getting in low shots when I am unaware and unable to speak in my own defense
  • Seek out chances to break the ice
  • Rehearse stories of every good thing they've ever done, back as far as I can remember, and in front of other people
  • For treating a friend of mine as worthless
  • For encouraging this friend to stay unemployed so that she would be justified in ignoring his thoughts on finances and treating him as worthless
  • For putting him in a no-win situation and then blaming him for losing
It's actually more difficult for me to figure out the reversal when it's not me being wronged.
  • Make sure she knows her worth and find ways to acknowledge her worth in front of her
  • Encourage her to do her best as a show of faith that she has something to offer
  • Try to put her in a situation where she can win; avoid harsh blaming and instead build up shared regret over the bad situation
  • For belittling me, treating me with contempt, and constantly holding over my head the threat of rejection and abandonment
  • For abandoning me in a hundred little ways before finally and officially abandoning me
  • Treat with respect
  • Set aside coldness and indifference during times we see each other (e.g. exchanging the kids)
  • Be willing to listen and encourage as needed, setting aside bitterness, not returning hostility for abandonment but instead showing steadfastness and kindness without any thought to whether it is deserved (it rarely is) or whether it is appropriate (it is more appropriate than the alternatives)


DougALug said...


This is some really great stuff. It is just some really tough stuff too.

I need to pray a lot and take this too heart.

Thanks for the challenge.

God Bless

Weekend Fisher said...

For me, the hardest part was actually making that first list of people who are getting on my nerves and why. I was so tempted to blow a gasket rather than just make a list. I think, when I do it again, it might not be quite so hard because now I have some sort of idea what I'm going to do about it.

LoieJ said...

I printed your lists and studied them because I relate to this so much. I'm not one to just let things go and I don't "suffer fools gladly." So in some ways, I must be a prickly person myself. I think I am something like #3 person on the first list, at least in regards to one person.

So....I need both to work on gracefulness and forgiveness. I've found, in the past, that deliberative forgiveness is very helpful, more helpful than just trying to overlook some perceived wrongs. And doing a forgiveness exercise, with prayer, has helped me see that sometimes the "fault" was NOT deliberate, and sometimes only in my perception.

I've also come to see Jesus' command to forgive 7 X 70 as literal, not figurative for "completely." That is, one must forgive over and over. Even with the help of prayer, forgiving once just isn't enough. The feelings creep up again, like vomit coming up the throat.

You must be stuck with some of these people, right? Otherwise, I guess you could get new people to surround you.

Weekend Fisher said...

<< You must be stuck with some of these people, right? Otherwise, I guess you could get new people to surround you. >>

I enjoyed that, thank you. I suppose I'm "stuck" with some of them, and they're stuck with me. But there's no doubt in my mind that if I got new people to surround me, they'd be just as human as the current bunch.

There's nobody who's going to put up with me for long unless they're merciful, and vice versa.

Or as Buckaroo Bonzai used to say, "No matter where you go, there you are."

I'm flattered that you printed them out and studied them. True confession time: on some of them it was hard to make myself write what I really wanted them to do for me, because I knew I'd end up making myself do it for them. I had to consciously ignore that at some points and just focus on how I would want them to treat me.

The one I had the most trouble with was #5. That one's trickier without my extra attitude because if I show too much warmth, he's bound to misunderstand it inappropriately.

Jeremy Pierce said...

The other side of this is that in some of these cases the reason they're doing this is because they're not being treated the way you are here recommending.

Weekend Fisher said...

Both sides think that. They might even both be right about that much.

LoieJ said...

I think I can pick up on the context of #5. The problem with not acting warmly, however, is that you give that person justification for his feelings and actions. What is that verse about heaping coals upon their heads? I've never completely understood that, but I think that one can help another dig a trench of nasty attitude by giving them a "reason" for his feelings. Maybe I'm not making sense.??? And I haven't been in that situation.

Weekend Fisher said...

Yep, that's a tricky one. I definitely don't want to be cold, but have to figure out how to be warm without sending the wrong message. Where's my tightrope-walking pole again?

aaron said...

for wanting to return good, you rock!! =D