Nothing to forgive
I PULLED into my friend's driveway as her husband stormed out of the house and into his car, slammed the door, and yelled out the window, ``And that's all I'm ever going to say about it!'' The car roared out of the driveway. Although just on time for a prearranged meeting with my friend, I waited, wondering if I should go in at all. But it was only a minute before she came out to the car and, with what I felt was amazing poise, simply said, ``I'm sorry you were caught in that. Don't worry--he'll be fine.'' We carried in the file boxes we were to go through, and got to work at her kitchen table. Since it wasn't the kind of collating and organizing that could be done while talking, we didn't have to make conversation. In about thirty minutes the telephone rang. Sensing it was my friend's husband, I started into the dining room so she could have privacy. But she motioned me to stay. Her quiet manner never changed, and I heard a response that I recall to this day. In an affectionate tone she dismissed the incident and told him there was no need to apologize. ``I know you didn't mean to be angry,'' she said. ``There's nothing to forgive. I love you too.''
This was an incredible scene to me. I had grown up with a parent who had a terrible temper. I had been yelled at and had watched my parents suffer from many explosions.
``You're remarkable,'' I told her. ``No, not really,'' she replied. ``I know the temper actually makes it harder for him than for me. And I know that his true nature--and mine--is loving, intelligent, at peace. So there really is nothing to forgive.''
I didn't need to learn the details of their argument--how much one of them might have been right, or wrong, or the ultimate resolution of the dispute. What I did know was that an outburst of wrath and willfulness had been defused gently and in a short period of time. I had witnessed true peacemaking--someone claiming that man is Godlike because God made him that way, and thereby proving the presence of peace and right-mindedness in the face of bitter anger.
It's common knowledge, and the common stuff of essays and sermons, that peace can hardly be established among nations if fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters can't maintain some equilibrium in family living.
The capacity to love unselfishly, to withhold anger, to honor God by honoring each other as His perfect creation, is the great demand on mankind. And in any confrontation between two parties--whether a verbal attack, strife over property, or some personal betrayal--it is possible for one or both parties to make the conscious effort to forgive the wrong. Even a small success in extinguishing anger can be a considerable step toward introducing peace.
Christ Jesus was once asked by his disciple Peter, ``Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?'' Jesus answered, ``I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.''1 That makes for a lot of specific forgiving. How many times, I wondered, did my friend have to forgive her husband?
In the abstract, and with good reasoning powers, it's possible to forgive many wrongs. But it takes humility, meekness, and spiritual determination to quiet the specific, deep emotional responses that come from being wronged. It takes a true love, which sees beyond the circumstances of the moment and the personalities involved to recognize that each of us is, after all, the child of God. Each one's true, God-created selfhood is the very reflection of the divine nature and includes nothing that can hurt or be hurt.
In her Miscellaneous Writings, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, says, ``If you have been badly wronged, forgive and forget: God will recompense this wrong, and punish, more severely than you could, him who has striven to injure you.'' She continues a few lines later, ``Every man and woman should be to-day a law to himself, herself,--a law of loyalty to Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.''2
For twenty years I've remembered this incident in which my friend lived the beatitude ``Blessed are the peacemakers....''3 And I still recall her gentle influence with their children. There was always something sweet and compassionate in the children's manner--as if love and meekness had prevailed, not only in maintaining a basically good marriage but in providing a Christian example of peacemaking for the children of the marriage.
1Matthew 18:21, 22. 2Mis., p. 12. 3Matthew 5:9. DAILY BIBLE VERSE If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. I John 4:12