“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”
— Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906 – 1945)
THERE appears to me to be levels of learning around forgiveness. My first significant lessons surrounded a profound initial grief, and God gifted me with the ability to focus on what I’d done wrong as opposed to bothering too much with what the other person seemed to me to have done wrong.
But in the recent few years my Lord has upped the ante. He wants me to learn more.
I’ve found that the root of bitterness — for which I thought naively I was immune — came to be operant. I tussled for the grace to forgive certain people in certain situations.
What God showed me, albeit very recently, is these situations are a mirror opportunity for my growth. It’s not about them (my perception of them) at all. God is like what my mother always told me when I grew up — I’m not interested in what the boy next door is getting away with. God says, “My sole interest is you and your growth!”
As soon as we focus on us, and what we can do to effect forgiveness, forgiveness gets easier. God equips us with gracious understanding.
We cannot evade God — shower others in our judgment — and come away unscathed and growing.
Our detrimental behaviour toward others always leads to our detriment.
And yet, this article, as prefaced by Bonhoeffer’s riveting quote, is not about me or you at all. It’s about how we’re to view others that helps us shower them in the gracious understanding they deserve from us.
If we truly want to forgive people more instinctively, we need to get inside them to be connected with who they are, and not be hoodwinked into focusing on what they do or don’t do.
Everyone — every single human being — is suffering.
It doesn’t matter whether we’re ‘blessed’ in material wealth, by our country of birth, or by anything else. Everyone suffers.
The key to forgiveness is a pliable heart, and the heart’s pliability depends on empathy.
If we have the capacity for empathy — to be interested in another person — we have the ability to care.
Care is pivotal for the ability to forgive.
We can only truly forgive someone if we genuinely care about them.
If we care enough to see another’s suffering, God will also give us the care with which to understand and accept our own suffering.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.