Friend’s of Padre Steve’s World,
This is kind of an awkward post for me to write. Those who know me well know that I don’t back down from fights, I don’t suffer insults well, and have a vast capacity to harbor a grudge. So this is my attempt to scribble down my reflections on forgiveness which is something that I don’t do well.
In Homer’s Iliad Achilleus lamented the conflict with the Achaians, especially the hatred that it had spawned, he addressed those who had been his enemies and said: “Still, we will let all this be a thing of the past, though it hurts us, and beat down by constraint the anger that rises inside us. Now I am making an end of my anger. It does not become me, unrelentingly to rage on…”
I think that the ancient lament is particularly appropriate to our time. For decades the acrimony between Americans has been getting worse and worse and and most of us probably have some measure of personal guilt in what the last several election cycles have done to us. They have been corrosive to our society and to us as individuals, me included. I have been able to do some reflecting today because I was having work done to repair some to the flood damage from Hurricane Matthew and had some time alone as well as some quality time walking my Papillon dogs around the lake in our neighborhood.
I have lost too many friends during this election cycle, and seen some distance in other relationships with people who I love and respect. Some of this is my own fault, I became too consumed with the news cycle and too emotionally invested in what was going on. Most of the time I think I behaved well, but other times I did not. My temper grew short and my ability to brush off minor personal affronts, not to mention real attacks on my person, honor, and character grew shorter.
I have had to pull back some. I am spending less time on social media, less time looking at more partisan news sites, checking the veracity of anything I read and before forwarding it out to others, and being more circumspect in posting links to articles with which I might agree, but the tenor of which could drive further wedges between me and friends. To paraphrase Achilleus’s words about his anger, “It does not become me, unrelentingly to rage on…”
There are a number of people that I will have to ask forgiveness of, and that will be hard because I am so bad at it. But harder will be forgiving others who have wounded me badly. I will work on that, initially it may be silently, until I reach the point that I can actually address them in person. Mark Twain wrote,“There isn’t time, so brief is life, for bickerings, apologies, heartburnings, callings to account. There is only time for loving, and but an instant, so to speak, for that.”
That being said I have a difficult time forgiving those who have hurt me, but conversely I can admit when I have been a complete ass and pray that those I have offended are better at forgiveness than me.
In ancient Greece and Rome the olive branch was a symbol of peace, and the term to offer an olive branch now is to offer peace, and I will be doing that over the coming weeks and months. I see it as my personal attempt to help bind up the wounds of the nation. As the American Civil War was drawing to a close, Abraham Lincoln uttered these words in his Second Inaugural Address: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds…”
That being said even in forgiveness there will still be pain, on occasion anger will still rise. Likewise I am sure that even in restored relationships some scars will remain, as will some of our more deep disagreements. But in spite of that it is better for to at least try forgive and love than remain in the acidic stew of hatred generated by this election. The olive branch is symbolic of peace and forgiveness as the olive tree takes years to mature and bear fruit, while war, societal conflict takes so little effort and leaves scars that last for generations.
So until tomorrow,