Originally posted September 16, 2011, at Halstad Parish. Republished with permission of the author.
My sons are about 2½ years apart. They always have been each other’s best friend and best adversary.
As little kids will, they fought a lot when they were small over everything from, “He touched me!” to taking turns or sharing or disagreeing.
One time, it got so bad that I felt the need to intervene before someone got hurt.
We talked and got to the point where I asked them to forgive each other and make up. That’s when one of them stood straight with arms folded and said very loudly and stubbornly, “No! I’m not ready to be sorry. I still want to be mad.”
Holding on to anger
His intention was to stay mad at his brother and hold on to that anger.
Fortunately, at their very young ages, it didn’t take long before wanting to play together became a greater need than enjoying being angry, and they were soon off playing together again.
Even today, I would feel sorry for anyone who tried to come between them.
But at the same time, I think my son gave voice to something that we often feel but don’t usually have enough nerve to admit to ourselves much less to say out loud.
“No! I’m not ready to be sorry. I still want to be mad.”
There are times when we almost enjoy being angry. We relish it, feeling self-righteous; especially when we are convinced we are in the right and have been put upon unfairly.
It starts there, feeling justified.
But when we hang on to it, nurse it and feed it by rehearsing re-playing it over and over, then our hurt and anger become dangerous and toxic.
The common reaction is to avoid the other person, stop talking to them and so we hurt ourselves. Like the quote I heard: “Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”
Holding each other accountable
When Christian community works, we are able to hold each other accountable to living faithfully, encouraging one another to love and forgive one another and working together to serve those in need.
Living in community enables us to live faith more fully than we might otherwise be inclined to by ourselves. Like candles in the darkness, the shared light of our faith shines brighter than any one flame.
Unfortunately, group dynamics can also serve to amplify anger and resentment, feeding division and seeming to give it approval. That this happens to congregations shouldn’t surprise us. After all, a congregation is a gathering of people with all our foibles, sins and flaws.
But as people who follow Jesus, the measure of our behavior is not “the majority rules” but to look to the teaching and action of Jesus.
Giving love and forgiveness
Jesus is very clear about how we are to live with one another. Together we are the body of Christ. “Dear Christ gathered” was a favorite way the early church said of itself. And living together requires lots of love and lots of forgiveness — more forgiveness than we can count and record.
Those without faith, those searching for faith and those whose faith is young or weak are watching. Our witness, like Jesus feeding the hungry, is to be overflowing with forgiveness, a gift of abundance. And when we forgive the other, we find ourselves freed to live into the future.
This forgiveness is not something we can accomplish on our own; we are only able to forgive because we have first been forgiven — like it says in the Lord’s Prayer.
And although people sometimes describe forgiveness like erasing the board clean, many people have reflected that it is more of a process that takes time, which is OK. God has lots of time.
What is important is that we keep coming back to be forgiven and to forgive. Read Matthew 18:18-22.
Find a link to Christine Iverson’s entry on the blog Halstad Parish at Lutheran Blogs.