The Poison We Drink

I was in a consultation recently with a client who was having a problem on her job. The problem was a coworker who had been rude to her, outrageously rude. The client had complained to human resources but they didn’t do anything. The client 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 throw their jobs away because they are unwilling to forgive.

There are a handful of scriptures that have always troubled me, not because I don’t understand them but because I do. They are warnings that are not obscure or ambiguous, and while some try to give them a more benign spin, I’ve always thought it safer to take them at face value and heed their warning. 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. You see, we think our unforgiveness is a rational attempt at justice, but really it is irrational. Think about it, whom does your unforgiveness upset more, the person who wronged you or you? Duh. Thomas Chalmers said, “Unforgiveness is the poison we drink hoping another will die.” That’s how irrational it is.

And 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