“I’ve been trying to get down to the heart of the matter. But my will gets weak And my thoughts seem to scatter But I think it’s about forgiveness, forgiveness even if, even if you don’t love me anymore.” — Don Henley
You’ll have to excuse me today as I get upon my pulpit. Yet, I’ve paid the bill for WordPress, so it’s my pulpit today. My wife and I were telling our daughter a story about forgiveness. I thought it would be a good lesson to share with the congregation. Some of you that know me personally may know this story, but I will leave out names to protect the innocent.
Since I returned from college, I have been a regular volunteer in youth ministry. I’ve migrated between three different parishes and have volunteered at all three. At my first parish the youth minister and I were close, but we ended up having a falling out. I could go into details, but it was more than 20 years ago and there really is no need.
Things came to a head when we were having a meeting and he and another friend were laughing hysterically when I was sharing my thoughts on something. It was very hurtful. I confronted them after the meeting so that I didn’t do it in front of other people. He refused to apologize and said that was just the way he was. I could accept it and be his friend or not accept it and not be his friend. Okay, decision made.
The concept of forgiveness is a difficult one in our faith and in life in general. It took a long time to understand it in this particular situation and in others as well. It takes time for it to happen. I came to understand that forgiveness is not really for the person being forgiven, but the person doing the forgiving. It doesn’t mean the relationship returns to what it was. It just means that they don’t occupy your innermost thoughts on a daily basis.
It is about letting go. The hard part comes with everything else. I don’t really think about him anymore and yet he is not my friend. Yet, 20 years later I realize the role I played in that situation. These are things we never really think about at the time. That lesson has carried over to other situations that similarly had an effect on my life.
All of this comes to mind because of the situation with Donald Trump and the Republican party (for the most part). Forgiveness will take a long time and it won’t mean that the relationship will return to what it was. It can’t. It just means that eventually we will have to get to a place where the anger we feel doesn’t overwhelm us everyday. That anger can be turned into an obsession over how best to punish him and his cronies for what they have done. That obsession will slowly kill us.
Navigating this will be the trickiest part of Biden’s job moving forward. We saw what Gerald Ford did following Watergate. It destroyed his presidency before it even got started. Yet, I’m not sure if he would have survived either way. Biden is not in the same exact position, but the situations have similarities. How does he balance the need to hold people accountable with the desire for us to move forward?
However, that’s Biden. For the rest of us the question is a lot simpler. How quickly can we get to a point where we aren’t thinking about Trump and his minions on a daily basis? That’s a difficult question. We could surpass 400,000 COVID deaths by January 20th. We haven’t seen what January 6th will bear. There will be a fight in Congress over the election. There could be violence in the streets as the president and those around him are still sewing the seeds of discontent.
How do you forgive when your friend is still hurting you? How do you forgive when their bad actions are still negatively impacting your life? Theology teaches us it is about wiping the slate clean. Obviously that’s ideal. In this case we might just have to hope for the anger to recede. We can’t do it for him. We have to do it for ourselves.