...and it is me.
All of the O'Connor stories I've read lately have talked about judging others harshly. They illustrate (painfully) the folly of judging others while failing to judge oneself. They expose the heresy of failing to recognize our own shortcomings while continually pointing out those of our neighbors...our associates...our coworkers...our peers...our fellow church members...our friends...our families.
I am such a hypocrite. I have committed this heresy a million times, every time thinking that I am the wronged one and therefore not in the wrong. I was wrong.
And, as has become sharply and painfully clear to me in the past few weeks, I've exhibited the very characteristic I have judged harshly. What have I been doing, trying to pick the splinters out of others' eyes while ignoring (or not seeing) the beam in my own? I've been the damaged party...sure...but I've been the damaging party too.
Is it learned behavior? Maybe. It doesn't help to see others in your own family doing this. But the real culprit is a fallen world...a world that is so infused with sin that we don't half recognize the egregious offenses in ourselves.
I have not made the efforts I am supposed to...not consistently. I don't reach out voluntarily across the divide. I do keep an arm's length. I often allow the efforts at maintaining the relationship(s) to remain one-sided. I do not trust that it will not happen again, even though I "believe" that it won't. I am almost confident that the other shoe will not drop...almost...but I am still waiting for it. How do I trust that we are finished with it? How do I do that when I am weak and fearful?
In his autobiography, Mahatma Gandhi said "the weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." So true, and in this situation I am the weakest of the weak. But couple that with Psalm 73:26 which states that "my flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the STRENGTH of my heart and my portion forever." (emphasis mine) A no brainer, right? Yep...in a sinless world.
Myriad sources discuss forgiveness, in every possible light, but I think it was C. S. Lewis who described forgiveness as something you must do again and again, every single day, because until your heart has truly forgiven, the results are only temporary. What a perfect analysis of what forgiveness is and how to do it. It makes Matthew 18: 21-22 crystal clear...forgiving seventy times seven is not to forgive 490 times, but to forgive repeatedly until forgiveness is real.
The marching orders are to make the effort. Every day. Reciprocation great, but not required. Because it is not about the other party...it is about my heart. Your heart. Our hearts.
I have met the enemy, and the enemy is me.
God, and God alone, can change me.