Forgive Us Our Trespasses as We forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us
Yesterday I sat with the little girl I’ve been tutoring, Emily, and we talked about the sacrament of reconciliation and God’s forgiveness. I knew this was going to be hard for me, since I’ve always struggled with reconciliation.
I’ve simply never had a good experience with the sacrament. When I go to priests that I know and trust, they are generally family friends, and I feel as though they are judging me, or will run right off and tell my mother how awful I am. I know this is irrational, but it’s never inspired me to really let go the way I need to, you know?
With priests I don’t know, the insecurity is worse…way worse. I feel a need to justify everything that I say or do. But I understand the need for the sacrament, I simply haven’t received it in almost ten years. When I was sixteen I felt that I was being chastised by a priest when I confessed and asked for advice about underage drinking and the tiny bit of drug experimentation I was considering. I was so hurt, confused and upset by the experience that I stopped going.
So when I began talking to Emily about confession, and God’s grace and forgiveness, and I found myself for the first time with her, talking about something that I wasn’t sure I believed in. I explained, in a practical sense why we’re supposed to go to confession, and the need for the sacrament and all of that. Luckily she didn’t ask too many questions, because I honestly wasn’t sure how to answer them.
What she did ask about was forgiving other people, when I said that it was an important part of being a Christian. She understood that when people asked for forgiveness, or say they’re sorry you should accept. Actually this is what she said:
“That’s like when your friend says something mean, but then they’re sorry, so then you’re friends again. But what if they don’t say they’re sorry, or they keep being mean to you?”
I swallowed and this was my answer: You still have to forgive them. That doesn’t mean you take it. You don’t have to be alright with people being mean to you. Forgiving them means that you don’t carry it around with you. You let it go. It’s their problem, not yours, and by forgiving them, by not carrying around that anger with you, you keep it from being your problem.
She seemed to like that answer, and I was pretty proud of myself. Until this little theory of mine got tested later in the day. In the summers I run a community theatre program for young adults (ages 18-35) with my best friend from high school. This year both she and I have pulled back our involvement a lot, because the whole thing is incredibly stressful and it very nearly destroyed our relationship last summer.
Because of that, decisions that used to just be between us are being discussed and analyzed by a staff of about 7 people. And because of that I get my way a whole lot less than I used to, which is hard for me. One such example was the decision to include as a rehearsal pianist someone who I dislike working with a whole lot. We’ve worked with him in the past and he tends to hijack whatever situation he is in to make it far more dramatic than need be.
We’re a week in to our rehearsal process, and this person was still holding it over our heads whether or not he would be our pianist. This would be fine, except we didn’t have a backup (he was our back up) and I was frustrated. While trying to confirm whether he would be helping us out, he responded with a line of information so off from the actual situation, (and that basically called my partner and best friend a liar) that I was in a rage.
I know that this guy is not going to apologize, because I know him. But I’m having trouble taking the advice I gave to Emily. This is someone who was disrespectful to me, my friends and something that I have worked for three years to build. But I also know that carrying around my anger is pointless. I have to forgive him and move on. I can’t control his attitude, I can control mine and set an example.
Emily also mastered the Lord’s Prayer yesterday, and I was so proud of her. (We start and end each session with it.) When we finished, and we prayed, and reached, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Emily stopped and looked at me.
“What’s wrong, honey?” I asked.
“That’s like you said,” she explained. “Earlier, you said, we need to ask God to forgive us when we do bad things, and we need to forgive other people who do bad things to us.”
So that’s what I’m trying to do. No matter how hard it is.