The Poison We Drink

I was in a consultation recently with a client who was having a problem at work: a coworker had been rude to her, outrageously rude. The client complained to human resources, but they didn’t do anything, and she was determined to continue pursuing grievances until the rude coworker got what she deserved.

I could see what was going to happen because I had seen it before. I tried to convince her that unless she let it go, her continued complaints would make her the problem in the eyes of her employer and probably cost her her job. She said she realized that but she couldn’t let it go and wouldn’t, even if it cost her her job.

This is a situation I see more often than you might think, and I’m a lawyer, not a psychiatrist–people willing to lose their jobs because they are unwilling to lose their unforgiveness.

There are a handful of scriptures that have always troubled me. They are warnings that are not obscure or ambiguous, and while some people try to give them a more benign spin, I’ve always thought it safer to take them at face value and heed their warnings. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is one; the narrow gate is another. And then there’s this one: “But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt. 6:14-15 NIV). Jesus said it, so I think we can bank on it being true. But how do you do it?

The key is realizing that unforgiveness is not an act of reason, but emotion. We consider our unforgiveness is a rational attempt at justice, but it is actually irrational. Think about it, whom does your unforgiveness upset more, the person who wronged you or you? Duh. As it has been said, “Unforgiveness is the poison we drink hoping another will die.” That’s how irrational it is.

Moreover, unless you are perfect, you will make a mistake and hurt someone someday, if you haven’t already (and I’m confident you have, as we all have). Would you deny another the same forgiveness you covet when you are the perpetrator? Is that rational? Double duh. Unforgiveness is not just, and it’s not rational. And if it’s not rational, that just leaves emotion.

So don’t drink the poison. GS

2 thoughts on “The Poison We Drink”

  1. I recently heard the unforgiveness quote you attribut to Chalmers and wondered where it originated. After an online search, it appears it is much-quoted and attributed to a variety of people from Nelson Mandela to Joyce Meyer. Chalmers predates all of them, but I have not been able to verify online that he wrote or said it. Do you know the source? Thanks!

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