What kind of things are you willing to overlook in life? Someone cuts me off in traffic and I tend to just gasp a little, let my blood pressure get back to normal, and then move on. I don't find it necessary to speed up, tail them, and/or flip them a certain finger while shouting expletives my momma would have washed my mouth out for back in the day. Someone eats that last brownie you were counting on having when you settled in to watch your favorite evening show and I tend to get a little bummed because I was 'counting on it', but I don't have a hissy-fit. In all truthfulness, I will probably scour the cupboards and fridge to find an 'alternative' to that chewy, chocolate goodness. We can choose to overlook offenses or we can choose to hold onto them like our last nickel. Which do you choose most of the time? Does the 'severity' of the offense come into question? Let's be truthful here - someone eats your brownie and you can forgive pretty quickly - someone steals your TV and you might just hold onto that one a little longer!
Overlook an offense and bond a friendship; fasten on to a slight and—good-bye, friend! (Proverbs 17:9)
It was Pope John XIII who said we are to 'see everything, overlook a great deal, and correct a little'. I might just confess to getting this backwards once in a while. Yes, I see everything - I choose to overlook a little - and sometimes I find myself 'correcting' a LOT. William James said, "The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook." To overlook an offense is certainly the desired response, but how many times do we struggle with that choice? Probably more than we first admit. To overlook an offense doesn't mean we don't notice it - we see it, but we choose not to dwell on it. When we choose to 'consider' that offense over and over again, we are actually allowing small roots to be created that will ultimately bring about the full harvest of bitterness, regret, and mistrust. So, it is pretty important that we learn to 'see all', but not actively allow those things to get into our 'rumination' pathway!
Some of us will protest the idea of overlooking an offense because we think we were wronged. Let me just take a moment to remind us of the value of not 'regarding' the offense as intentional. I think this is my first reaction to an offense most of the time now. I ask myself if that individual actually intended to hurt me by getting over quickly into my lane, maybe a little closer to my front end than I might have wanted. It is not likely they intended me harm - they just needed to get off at the next exit! I might choose to overlook - to not consider - the quick reply that seemed a little clipped and harsh. I consider where that person is at that moment - are they tired, is their blood glucose low, have they lost sleep because they are concerned over matters that are closing in? God asks us to consider the 'best' in an individual, not the worst.
I have listened as individuals tell me of an offense and my mind goes to the place of asking how on earth they latched onto that offense of the other and how much time they have spent 'considering' that offense. In truth, I wonder how much of their lives they have wasted 'considering' over and over the offense they have latched onto and made out to be so 'great' in their own minds. Harvey Mackay tells us, "Every morning brings new potential, but if you dwell on the misfortunes of the day before, you tend to overlook tremendous opportunities." Mackay is a businessman, so it is likely he was referencing those potential business opportunities, but take this a little further. If we dwell on the 'misfortunes' within relationships, considering them over and over again, we are likely overlooking the opportunities that come when forgiveness is extended in place of that grudge. Just sayin!