What about the people who are in your life right now, the ones you may live with or work with on a regular basis? In reality, it's the everyday annoyances and conflicts in our lives that can sometimes bring us to the brink of despair, make us cry out, "God! I can't handle this a moment longer!" What about forgiving these people for the Little Things? Because these are the people whose attitudes and actions can cause us to react by clogging up our hearts with resentment and unforgiveness, clog our hearts up so much that we lose the ability to love them. Everyday forgiveness can be the hardest test of how able and willing we are to forgive.
Fr. Richard Rohr explains everyday forgiveness:
"Do you know what's even harder to forgive? It's often the petty things, the accumulating resentments. The little things you know about another person; how they sort of did you wrong yesterday. No big deal, but the ego loves to grab onto those; they build up on the psyche like a repetitive stress injury. I think that in many ways, it's much harder to let go of these micro-offenses, precisely because they're so tiny. And so we unconsciously hoard them, and they clog us up." (from "The Divine Dance.")
Here's an example. For awhile, the drain in the stationary tub next to my washing machine was getting clogged up with lint so that the water couldn't flow down it well. Who would think that little pieces of lint could do this? But the gradual accumulation of lint had the cumulative effect of clogging up the drain. It was no longer open to the flowing water. Finally I learned to put a lint filter on the hose draining into the tub. All the lint collects in the filter now, and I have to change those filters when they get filled up. Think of those micro-offenses as lint, that will keep on clogging up our psyches/souls unless and until we put on a lint filter - the armor of God that we "put on" with prayer and forgiveness to keep God's grace flowing freely into our souls.
Humility can help us see our relationships with greater clarity. Every time that someone's thoughtless words or actions make us bristle and sizzle, maybe even cry inside, it's good to recognize that there are things we say, things we do, that can likewise negatively affect the people who know us. Sometimes we approach life thinking that we are the sane, rational, mature ones, and everyone else needs to "grow up" or change. Then someone we know - a family member, or a friend, - can say something or do something that lets us know that our way of thinking, our way of doing things, can and does irritate, even hurt, others. Suddenly we realize that we have as many personality quirks or annoying habits, immaturities, or spiritual blinders on as everyone else does. They have to learn to "put up with" and learn to forgive us as much as we have to learn to "put up with" or learn to forgive them!
We need, truly need, our family and friends to "unclog us" from time to time. I remember going on a self-righteous, middle class rant to one of my dear friends about the "selfish rich" who "don't care about the needs of the poor." Finally my friend said gently, "Mary, don't you realize that I'm rich?" What a way to learn about my judgmentalism! My friend is one of the most spiritual, giving people whom I know. Realizing how I was rigidly, immaturely stereotyping a whole class of people was a "humbler." My friend gave me insight into how my attitudes could cause resentment and hurt to build up in the people in my life, affecting our ability to freely love and trust each other. I never realized I was judgmental, rigid and unforgiving of the rich until my friend chose to not be resentful, but loving enough to enlighten me.
I quietly asked God to forgive me for my judgmentalism and unforgiveness. What's even more humbling is realizing how often - everyday! - that we need to ask God to forgive us - and God always does. "You can trust that God is treating you as you would wish to be treated - letting go of your pettiness, your silliness, your judgmentalism, and your blockages to love - while still seeing you as whole.....When I can stand under the waterfall of infinite mercy and know that I am loved precisely in my unworthiness, then I can easily pass along mercy to you." (Rohr)
This is the Sacred Cycle of Forgiveness: The more often we realize that we need to ask God for forgiveness, the more we realize that God fills us with mercy so that we can forgive others as freely and generously as God forgives us. The more often we can forgive, the more often our focus can turn to us and the ways in which we need to spiritually grow past these annoying, hurtful habits of ours. Our pettiness, silliness, judgmentalism, obsessive micro-managing, hair-trigger temper, attention-seeking, are all blockages to love, are all wounds in our psyches/souls that ache for healing. Wounds can develop from many causes. But do we recognize these wounds? Do we want them to be healed? Do we recognize how they leave us spiritually lame?
Do we recognize that our daily habits of interaction are affected, even tainted, by wounds that are deeply rooted in our souls - insecurity, self-hate, incessant self-criticism, unhealthy self-absorption, unhealthy perfectionism? We accept these wounds in ourselves, and then inflict them on others! God's mercy in us causes patience to flower, patience with ourselves, and patience with others as God gradually heals our wounds. We trust that God is also healing the ones who cause us to lose heart.
Once there was a lame man who lay beside the healing pool of Bethesda for thirty-eight years, waiting helplessly for someone to assist him to enter the pool. Thousands passed him by until finally Jesus looked upon him and really saw him, really listened to his heart's moans and tears. But Jesus' first words to him are enigmatic: "Do you want to be well?" (John 5:6)
Bob Schuchts comments,
"To me it sounds like Jesus is accusing the man of playing the victim. My initial reaction is to step in to defend this helpless man: Of course he wants to be healed. Look at how long he has been suffering. But then, coming to my senses, I realize this is Jesus whom I am questioning. He must know something about the deepest paralysis of this man's soul that isn't immediately obvious to me. After all these years, it appears this lame man has given up hope that he will ever be healed....
"The longer I ponder Jesus' question to this man, the more I begin to feel a bit uneasy myself. He is not just asking this lame man if he wants to be healed.
His question is directed to you and to me as well." (from "Be Healed," Ave Maria Press.)
Every day, in the midst of our busyness, in the midst of the not-always-loving or pleasant give-and-takes of our lives, Jesus is walking by, stopping to listen and observe, his heart tuned to the hurtful habits, wounds and unforgiveness in our hearts. Can our hearts go still for a moment and look into his eyes? Can we hear his voice asking,
"Do you want to be well? Do you want to be healed? Are you going to stay frozen and emotionally, spiritually lame? Or do you want to grow? Do you want to face those silly, petty, judgmental, hurtful habits of yours that put clogs in your relationships? Do you want to grow in being able to forgive the people in your life for their equally silly, petty, judgmental, hurtful habits? It's up to you. I'm always willing to forgive you and show you who you really are, who you are capable of becoming: rich in tenderness, rich in understanding, rich in patience, rich in mercy - mirroring Me. I never give you people or situations in your life that you can't handle. I can and will always help you handle those people and situations that I've given you - handle them with matchless mercy and forgiveness, matchless love!"