I almost didn’t write on this topic this week because I didn’t think I had much to say on it. Over the years, I didn’t think I struggled much with this. I thought for forgiveness to be a challenge in my life I would have had to have experienced deep, deep hurts, and been deeply wronged. Thankfully, (and I mean I am very, very thankful!) that has not been my life.
But I do struggle with judging other people. Not as much as I used to, but I still have a yardstick up all the time, measuring my worth against someone else’s, looking for the reason that i am better, or at least as good, as they are. Judging them to ensure they are not quite as perfect as I am.
As I was reading over the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) this week for a different project, a couple verses jumped out at me - in that eerie-God-wants-me-to-pay-attention kind of way that he has. (Although I should have ignored it because it usually means that He is about to unload a mess of learning on me which is not always pain-free!)
Hang in for a minute or two while I connect the dots.
In my book, Losing the Mask, I described an encounter with God which changed a lot about how I view people in my life:
One time, during a rough patch in our now 40+-year marriage, I had been “discussing” the matter of my husband with God for the umpteenth time in a matter of days. I had been over and over my list of grievances. I wanted to hear that God was going to fix him. Really. That’s what I was asking for.
On this particular day, after a long while, I just stopped talking. I was out of words. For the next hour, I just sat there, silent, wondering if God even heard me, thinking only “I need you, God.” Then these words came to my mind—really, they were almost audible—“Just keep the good stuff.”
What? God, are you kidding me?? Really?! After all he’s done! Just keep the good stuff? I quickly realized that they were words of truth. Truly healing and forgiving words. That phrase has come back to me dozens of times since then, in the most helpful of ways when I was frustrated with people, or even just circumstances of life. I “just keep the good stuff.” Was it God who put those words in my head? I think it was, but who really knows. No matter, because they were “good stuff.”
Fear of Failure and Unforgiveness Are Interlinked
The book is about escaping the fear of failure, so unforgiveness and judging had little to do with that. Although when I look back over these words today, a year later, I wonder, since both were quite evident in my life that day. The underlying story was that I had been harboring these ‘grievances’ for months, maybe even years, blurred by time and anger and unforgiveness, and a hefty dose of judgement.
That walk was six years ago, but I remember it as if it was just yesterday. I was on the local country trail. I walked a long, long time. I had a lot to discuss with God about all the “atrocities” my husband had supposedly committed. All of it. Spewed it out to God. Cause I actually thought it was God’s problem to fix. ‘Ask in my name, and I will do it.’ Isn’t that what the Bible says. After all, I said God’s name (repeatedly), I said what I wanted to happen (change that man of mine!), so where’s the action, God?
(Just to clarify, that verse so often quoted is Matthew 6.33, and to clarify the full meaning, we are given everything only after we ‘seek his kingdom’ first. Hmm…I don’t recall kingdom-seeking in this instance, but I must have, right?)
Unforgiving is Damaging
It is right there – in that moment of the unleashing – where a judgmental attitude can be so very effective, and so very damaging. Unforgiveness makes you brittle, eating at your ability to recoup, to reposition. It gets a stranglehold on your resilience, and at some point deep into the battle your heart starts to turn. To harden. Make no mistake, we are talking about your heart. And if not tended to, it will atrophy into an unforgiving, judgmental one. The more you hold on to unforgiveness, the more you judge the unforgiven, the brittler you become.
Just Keep the Good Stuff
When I heard those words – just keep the good stuff - it was like getting an emancipation proclamation; like chains were unlocked. The self-inflicted bondage that I had wrapped around myself was loosened. There, in the middle of the woods, all by myself, I laughed. Out loud.
Check out what Bible says about judging others:
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. – Matthew 7:5
When you choose not to forgive, it has nothing to do with the wrong that was done to you. It has to do with you. And your heart.
With the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:2
My husband had wronged me. But instead of working through it together, removing the speck from each other’s eyes, I left the speck in his eye and took one big fat one of judgement and stuck it deep into my own.
Ouch! Yes, ouch! Do you see what we do to ourselves?
Forgiveness is Hard. And Big Hurts Take a Big Dose of Forgiveness
I will not presume to compare my hurts with the hurts that others have had. There are those of you who have been cut deeper than I could ever imagine enduring.
But no matter the depth of the pain, the longing for retaliation, the unfairness that forgiveness seems to bring, it is not the life that God wants for us. He does not want our heart to be hard. He wants it to be his.
Deep cuts require sutures. There is no doubt. But deep cuts will never heal if we continue to stab the plank into the wound.
I love that my body, just like the body of Jesus, carries scars. Some of our scars are evident. Some are not. All of them are the reminders of our lived life, the clear evidence of our endurance, our resilience, and our ability to heal.
The miraculous resiliency of the human body.
Even more so, the miraculous healing power of a human spirit that seeks God first.
More on Diane
Believe.com is so happy to have Diane writing with us. Diane is a writer and blogger and has authored Losing the Mask: Overcoming the Fear of Failure. She lives with her husband in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, has two adult children, both married, and one incredibly cute and loveable granddaughter.