Wednesday, July 13, 2011
It's not my strong suit
We been reading Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis for the discussion group led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter. I thought the last two chapters – “Sexual Morality” and “Christian Marriage” – would likely be the most controversial ones. Then I hit this week’s chapter.
It’s not my strong suit.
“Everyone says forgiveness is a lovely idea, until they have something to forgive,” Lewis says.
Well, exactly. It’s not that I bear grudges; it’s more that I have a long memory.
Not that there’s a significant difference between a grudge and a long memory, of course.
I can remember a lot of things people have done. I don’t have a photographic memory, but, oh, can I remember. Like when that jerk in junior high school threw…or that manager at work brazenly lied…oh, and that boss who took credit…well, you get the picture.
A lot of things get wrapped up in forgiveness: anger, hurt, a sense of trust being violated, a desire for penance, perhaps even a hope that the offending party will suffer, even a little bit. We talk about what we should have said or what we should have done. And forgiveness is about the last thing on our minds.
Forgiveness is hard.
Lewis has two suggestions. First, start with the easier stuff – like forgiving someone you love and whom you know loves you. We don’t have to leap immediately to Al Qaida and the attack on the World Trade Center. We should start small, probably because the small stuff is important.
And second, Lewis says, we should really understand what loving your neighbor as yourself really means. “I have to love him as I love myself,” he writes, “Well, how exactly do I love myself?” It’s not about being fond of your neighbor or thinking well of them. It’s more about hating the bad things we all do and loving the person in spite of the bad things.
Just like we love ourselves in spite of the bad things we know we do. We had the bad stuff we do, but we keep loving ourselves because we wish good for ourselves.
So, too, should we wish good for our neighbor.
To see more posts on this chapter of Mere Christianity, please visit Sarah Salter at Living Between the Lines.