When you get hit by a pebble, it stings a bit. It might even leave a mark if it’s flying fast enough. The degree of pain inflicted depends on where it hits you. If it hits you in the leg, it will hurt far less than if it flies into your face. But still, it’s a pebble. It’s not that big of a deal. It’s only a minor, fleeting annoyance.
But what if you were hit by a large rock? When you’re driving in the mountains, you’ll often see signs warning of falling rocks. These are the kinds of boulders that can crush cars and cause lasting damage, or even fatalities.
When someone hurts or offends me, it sometimes feels like they’ve dropped a large boulder on my head. It’s hurtful, and crushing. But when I sin against someone else through my unkind words or thoughtless comments, I perceive it as a pebble. Sin done to me always feels like a huge deal, while sins I commit against others seem small and minor.Sin done to me always feels like a huge deal, while sins I commit against others seem small and minor. Click To Tweet
One time I really struggled with anger was in a work situation where I had been left out of the loop of several email streams. A coworker had forgotten to include me in important communications. When I found out, I was hurt and became quite angry. I felt belittled, betrayed, ignored. My coworker realized what had happened and apologized for his oversight. To him it felt like a pebble, a minor infraction. But to me it felt like something huge, a boulder being dropped on my head. It took me a while to deal with my anger and hurt, repent, and finally respond well. (I admit that I did not initially react well to him in my resentment.) 🙁
Why Did I React So Strongly?
Looking back at this incident, I know that it was only a mistake on my colleague’s part, and not an intentional slight. He didn’t mean to exclude or harm me. But I took it as so much more, because of the wounds I carried from childhood. I often felt unimportant, disdained and ignored in my family.
So being overlooked or ignored was a painful sore for me and I reacted more strongly than I should have in this instance. I magnified the slight in my mind, and believed lies. I told myself that this was proof of the total disdain and lack of respect everyone in my workplace felt for me. None of it was true, but it took me a while to realize and repent of my faulty thinking.
Recently I heard of another situation where one person offended the other and then apologized. The recipient seemed to accept the apology, but then blasted the offender with unkind words. They responded with much greater anger and harshness than seemed reasonable. Plus, the offending person had already apologized!
What Happened There?
So what happened in that situation? I can’t know for sure, but my guess is that this angry person felt that a boulder had been dropped on their head, while the other party perceived it as a pebble. And the apology just didn’t cut it. It didn’t make up for the hurt that was caused, in the angry person’s mind. So they lashed out in an attempt to wound the other person like they’d been wounded. And the result was they ended up sinning just as much as the person who did the initial offending.
This is what unforgiveness looks like. I have not forgiven you if I’m attempting to hurt you. I have not forgiven you if I say I accept your apology, but then still act angrily or unkindly. And this is a dangerous spot to be in. It’s a vulnerable place where we can be tempted to become hard and bitter. Holding onto anger is the first step towards bitterness.
So what’s the answer for someone like me who couldn’t get over my anger even after my coworker apologized?
We must realize that no apology will ever fix us. Even the most sincere remorse or finely-crafted apology cannot soothe our wounded heart. When we are reacting unreasonably to offenses against us and struggling to forgive, we must ask ourselves why it’s such a huge deal. Are there raw places in my heart and mind that cause me to act or overreact this way? Are there sensitive wounds that need to be healed?When we are reacting unreasonably to offenses against us and struggling to forgive, we must ask ourselves why it's such a huge deal Click To Tweet
The person who offended me can’t do any more than apologize. They can’t go back and un-do what they did or said, and they can’t climb inside my hurting heart. Only Jesus can help and heal me.
Jesus Is Our Healer
We must humbly go to Him and ask Him to fix our broken hearts and soothe our troubled wounds. And He will! I know this, because I’ve experienced healing from the wounds and hurts of my past. I truly believe that if I were in the same situation today, (being excluded from the important emails), I would not be nearly as upset about it.
Jesus is also our motivation for forgiving others. We don’t choose to forgive because they deserve it, but because He tells us to. And He gives us the power to do it and love others. This is not our own willpower, but it’s the Spirit’s power.
Let’s ask Him to work in us, to help us become more like Him. I want to be that person that is impossible to offend, because I know I am dearly loved by my Father and I live to please Him! May it be so, more and more in my life.
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.Ephesians 4:31-32