At times, people can be pretty nasty to one another. People steal, abuse, defraud, lie, hate, etc., and many don’t care of the damage they do, or the destruction that surrounds them. Indeed, for most of us, life doesn’t run as smoothly as we might hope. So whereas Benjamin Franklin wrote, in 1789, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,” perhaps we could add in something about the way people treat each other too.
Now of course being horrible to one another is not always intended. Sometimes it is just a misunderstanding. Nevertheless, the question in is, “Should we allow the hurt that has been caused to wreck our lives, or should we learn to move on?”
Now I am not suggesting that we ignore the abuse, or whatever it is that we have faced. Far from it. But I am suggesting that we shouldn’t use that abuse to inflict more damage on ourselves than is absolutely necessary. After all, our abuser may be responsible for his/her actions. But it is up to us to whether we dig up the past, and keep opening old wounds, or whether we learn to move on.
Of course, that may be easier said than done. But the sad thing is that so many people today have not learned to move on. Furthermore, some people just don’t seem to want to. Some are continually dragging up the past; some are continually compounding the original problem that was caused by someone else. It’s like Lot’s wife, who looked back at Sodom, yearning for a life that was lost but was full of corruption.
Now some people hang on to their pain, because it’s all that they know. But as a consequence, one could easily ask, “Is their current situation the direct result of the abuse, or is it the consequence of being unwilling to let go?”
Now there is very important biblical principle in regard to being a victim of someone else’s abuse, etc… And the principle relates to the need to forgive. Indeed the whole bible is about the need for forgiveness—the need for us to be forgiven by God, and the need for us to forgive others. Yet whilst the need for forgiveness is the crux of the gospel, so many people today have not sought forgiveness from God, and so many continue to refuse to forgive others.
So, despite the initial offence, many people are suffering more now because of the result of unforgiveness than they were for the original offence. The original offence may have lasted but a moment, but their failure to deal with it has resulted in a lifetime of suffering.
And that is probably one of the reasons why Jesus put such emphasis on the need for forgiveness. It is also probably why the Apostle Paul taught that we shouldn’t even let the sun go down on our anger.
Dragging the past along—the lack of forgiveness—tends to blow situations well out of proportion. Minor disputes become major ones; individual disputes become problems of families and nations. Indeed, it is easy for situations to escalate and get out of control. Which is why dealing with past, and moving on, is so important. And it is something that I’ve had to learn to do in my own life too.
Now for those who don’t know me, I have a very low tolerance for people who do the wrong thing. I have also had many disputes with a range of people and organisations for not doing what they promised, for doing the wrong thing, etc., etc… There have also been misunderstandings, family disputes etc. Yet, whilst I believe that bringing people to account is important, I also believe that a line has to be drawn somewhere. Because if it’s not, then I am the one who will suffer for the subsequent damage that is caused.
Of course, that sometimes means letting go, even letting others get away with things that they shouldn’t, etc… But I believe that is the price that sometimes needs to be paid. It’s certainly better than living a totally wrecked life, because of an inability to move on from a problem that someone else caused.
From a biblical point of view, then, forgiveness is the ideal. Nevertheless, the reality may not necessarily be so straight forward. Any attempt, if appropriate, to resolve a dispute with the original perpetrator may fall on death ears. But in that case, all we can do is to do our bit and be content with that, no matter how unsatisfactory the result. Because in the end, no whatever the other person does, we need to learn to move on.
Posted: 27th January 2017
© 2017, Brian A Curtis