Seeking Forgiveness: For What and Why?
My feelings were hurt a while back because someone made me the target of a casual joke, a cutting comment meant to be funny. I didn’t laugh. Whether my reaction was justified is another conversation. In expressing my displeasure, I said to the person who hurt my feelings, “I’ve got my faults, and they are plenty; but I do not get my humor at other people’s expense.”
Pride goes before the fall. I know better than to brag about what I don’t do…it’s like a magnetic force is created the second I say it.
Less than a week later, in the midst of a game with a group and in an attempt to be funny, I got my laugh at someone else’s expense. The person wasn’t there, so it felt harmless; but later it didn’t and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
I regret so much that I said it. One minute I felt like I owed an apology to everyone in the group. The next minute I thought I must be the most naval-gazing, ridiculously introspective person on earth. No one but me was replaying the commentary from that day. In the context of the game we were playing, my comment fit right in with most everything else being said. In the context of my life, the golden rule, and everything I know to be right and good, it should not have come out of my mouth.
It was wrong. Period. Even if everyone else thought it harmless fun.
I hated how it made me feel. I wanted to ask forgiveness from everyone present, but even that I had to examine: Did I harm them or is it my reputation I am trying to save? I’m a writer of devotions and a Christian blogger. I’m a speaker and teacher. I’m a mentor and training to be a spiritual director. Is my apparent desire to ‘right the wrong’ really my desire to polish up my image in case I tarnished it?
Is the harder thing to live with it? To let it bear its weight down on me for a few days, rather than dash off a text or email apologizing so everyone can then ‘absolve’ me of my guilt?
Honestly, I doubt those who heard it were offended. I doubt anyone even remembers it except me. (People are not thinking about us nearly as much as we think they are.) But I offended myself. And God. I certainly wouldn’t go to the subject of my joke and cause more pain by revealing something unknown just to absolve myself.
So what to do? My tendency is usually to speak quickly. Get it over with. Yet, something held me back on this. At first I thought it was me just not wanting to “eat crow;" but honestly, I write easily and I could dash off a note to these close friends and family and they’d all just accept me graciously and make me feel better.
And then my thoughts ran like this…I’d even look rather noble…and perhaps influence them to be repentant and more careful with their speech…."Oh wretched man that I am,” as Paul said. I see it. Even in my desire to confess to others — I see such self-serving motives.
I’ve heard two speakers lately talk about dealing with what’s below the water line in our lives…this is it; the part where the algae grows in the dark.
Is the higher thing to accept in quietness and darkness the forgiveness of God? To face my brokenness? My “I'm-no-different-than-anyone-else-in-that-room” and sit with it awhile? Is the higher thing to accept what I did to my image, bear the consequence, and in doing so dethrone the idol of image in my life?
Didn't Jesus make himself of no reputation so he could deliver me from mine? Is part of knowing Him in suffering having to suffer the loss of what I have so cherished - my reputation? My sanctified status that I thought I had something to do with?
I suspect I’m just beginning to hold my breath and dive below the surface of the water. There in the dark, deep water is me managing the impression others have of me - the role of being the most tender-hearted, or the most contemplative, or the wisest or the one with the moral high ground.
The depth of self-serving that is in my heart - it’s pretty disgusting. The seemingly good thing I was about to do, I realize how even that action is me manipulating circumstances so I can come out looking good.
God, help me.
The entirety of this year I’ve been focusing on the word “slow”. It’s had all kinds of implications for what I’ve chosen to do and how I’ve gone about living. Here is one more: Slow down in the practice of self-examine. Sit with it until I can see what’s really below the water line, what's growing on the hull of the boat, that’s the part that needs confessing.