Forgiveness: A soft blanket
We all face frustration from time to time and have to deal with unmet expectations, or even worse, severe disappointments in life. I met a man recently whose 9-year old son has cerebral palsy, a helpless little bundle who requires feeding every 2,5 hours and 24-hour care. He told us the history and it’s clear that the situation was caused by human error at birth. He and his wife are living and struggling with the result of someone else’s mistake. Every time they look at this boy and wonder what might have been – they have to choose between bitterness and forgiveness.
Another scenario which plays out often is that of hurtful words from someone in the workplace or even in the family. Family? Supposedly a safe haven, a place where you can make mistakes and learn without being ridiculed or belittled. Yet, in so many cases those we love are the harshest in their criticism towards us. I am not talking about constructive criticism, where the other party challenges your weak points out of love and concern for you. I’m talking about words which cut deep, reflecting the other person’s frustration and inability to process their emotions and disappointments. The question remains, how do we handle those hurtful words? Do we retaliate and attack in an even harsher way, pointing out all their shortcomings to divert the attention away from us? Do we ignore it and pretend it didn’t hurt, only to find out later that all of those emotions erupt when triggered?
Solomon seems to have an answer for these situations: He describes forgiveness as something which covers the mistakes of someone. I can just see it as a thick soft blanket covering an uneven ugly surface.
“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers and overwhelms all transgressions (forgiving and overlooking another’s faults)” Proverbs 10:12 (AMP)
“He who covers and forgives an offence seeks love, but he who repeats or gossips about a matter separates intimate friends.” Proverbs 17:9 (AMP)
Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all wrongdoings. When we hate someone, unforgiveness is right there. Every little thing that person does adds another drop to the river of irritation and hatred. Even the most normal action can irritate you when viewed through the lens of hatred. But forgiveness stops the flow! In 1 Peter 4: 8, Peter speaks about the same principle: “Above all, have fervent and unfailing love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins (it overlooks unkindness and unselfishly seeks the best for others).
This covering blanket of forgiveness is the result of love. It doesn’t mean we cover ourselves, turning a blind eye and simply allowing sin to overwhelm us. It means we cover the other person by recognizing what is offensive and hurtful yet choosing to forgive. The 70 x 7 principle of forgiveness is exactly that:” Yes, that hurt but I choose to forgive and I choose to love”. Covering them with the blanket of forgiveness covers their offence and allows us to see them more objectively. When Peter talked to Jesus about this difficult subject, Jesus’ answer was clear, if we want to follow Him, we have to forgive one another continually.
“Then Peter came to Him and asked, ’Lord, how many times will my brother sin against me and I forgive him and let it go? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered him, ‘I say to you, not up to seven times, but seventy times seven.’” Matt 18:21-22 (AMP)
There are times to cover someone’s mistake, and there are times to address the offence for the relationship and the other person to grow. How we address this should promote love and not hatred. I am quite convinced that this is only possible after searching our own hearts in prayer, dealing with our own shortcomings and then applying wisdom in how and when to address the situation. The goal is never to prove your point, the goal is always to have a better connection, a deeper understanding of and respect for one another.
Because retaliation is so often our go-to reaction, wrapping someone in a blanket of forgiveness stops the fighting cycle and sets you free to love. Even in the most trying circumstances, forgiveness is the value which defines Christian living. In Col 3:13 Paul taught: ” Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (NIV).
In his book: “Values of the Kingdom of God” Dr H Vorster wrote: “Forgiveness holds the power to health and healing, but also to death and destruction. Forgiveness is defined by our ability to let go of an offence, hurt or wrong done to us. It is that constant act of pardoning others. It is the extending of compassionate grace to those who hurt us, abuse us, and cause pain to us. Forgiveness is defined by being merciful, understanding, tolerant, and pitiful. It is in the light of our dependency on and appreciation of God’s forgiveness that we liberally forgive.”
May you spread this warm, thick blanket of forgiveness over someone today and may you experience the relief and joy which comes with it.