Saturday, September 22, 2018

On the hook?

There are times when my BFF says something and I fake being 'hurt' about whatever she said - like walking away with head hung low, sagging my shoulders, or just putting on a pout. It is all in jest, but there are times when we all say or do things that really hurt another. We may not intend it, but the words come across curtly, the actions seem a little too rehearsed and stiff, or the response just doesn't match the moment. What happens next is critical. We can internalize the hurt so it does us harm, or we can externalize it in a way that harms another. Another option is to learn to actually recognize the offense as an opportunity to grow and to solidify the relationship.

Overlook an offense and bond a friendship; fasten on to a slight and—good-bye, friend! (Proverbs 17:9)

There are definitely times in life when an offense seems just too significant to overlook - there is just something about that offense that makes you think it is "justifiable" to remain angry with someone, or to perhaps even break off the relationship. When we overlook an offense, we are actually bringing a "bond" to that relationship that is like super glue. When we "fasten onto" an offense, we are taking the risk that the relationship will be harmed by that action. To overlook something means more than that we don't take notice of the offense - sometimes we notice, but we don't have to react to it. It carries the idea of not taking time to consider that offense over and over again - we don't rehearse it repeatedly. Ever been in a "heated" discussion with someone, only to have them bring up something you had done years before? People who are "holding on to" offenses are like that - they have an ability to recount the failure of the past over and over again.

The meaning of this word also carries the idea that we extend a pardon - the person who is offending us gets a "buy" as it comes to the offense. For many of us, giving someone a "buy" when they offend us is conditional - if the offense is minor, we might extend the pardon, but if it is more grievous, we hold on for dear life and don't want to 'let them off the hook'. One thing reiterated in scripture is that God is not conditional in his grace - he extends it even before we realize we have need for it. When we fail to take notice of the offense, or extend that pardon when it is least deserved, we are bringing a bond in that relationship that is not easily broken. That simple action on our part serves to unite us in relationship. It brings a connection between the two parties that helps the relationship be twice as strong as it was prior to the extension of that mercy. The important thing is that we learn to look beyond the "slights" in behavior that we often have a tendency to "latch onto", but which really deserve to be overlooked.

None of us needs to go through life being the doormat in a relationship - letting others just walk all over us and leave us covered in dirt! There are times when an offense is egregious - it is glaringly bad or wrong and needs to be dealt with in a fashion that indicates the significance of the offense! For example, being pulled over by a police officer because you are changing lanes without use of your turn signals may warrant a warning instead of a ticket. We need to be able to express the way that the action of another affected us - without attacking that other individual - not just give them the cold shoulder. Then we need to let that other person go - not holding them in a place of "owing" us, but allowing God to take that person into his hands for whatever action he feels may be warranted.

There are "little things" in relationships that become "big things" - all because we fasten onto those things more importance and energy than we should - focusing on them, rehearsing them, not being willing to overlook them. The reminder to us today is to learn how we might overlook the slights in relationship. Most of the time, the slights are really done without malice - they are unintentional and often worthy of a 'warning' more than anything else. When we learn to focus less on those and more on the person, loving them unconditionally, it is amazing how little those small things will really matter in the end. In fact, we will find the little things that used to be big things to us have really become building blocks upon which that relationship grows stronger and stronger. Just sayin!