Monday, May 26, 2008

7 x 70

The mind is a funny thing ... or at least mine is. I thought of the following words while brushing my teeth (go figure) the other morning.

Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

Matthew 18: 21-22

You can hear a concept any number of times without it really and truly registering in your brain and affecting your life, but sometimes the same idea comes to you unbidden from your own cranial depths, and it is then that you realize the truth of it. It is then that it begins to make sense, take hold, and stick.

Forgiveness is tough. Most of us hold tightly onto hurts for what seems to be forever. The problem is that the holding on does us no good whatsoever. It doesn't affect the other person, not in any sort of positive way at least, and it makes me, the holder of the grievance, miserable whenever I think upon it. That is why, I suppose, that Jesus told Peter, and thereby us, to forgive someone 490 times, or in other words, as often as it takes.

You see, old hurts just keep resurfacing in our brains. We rethink the old thoughts and are wounded anew every time as we relive the grief, anger, pain, and sorrow from the past. We re-experience these negative emotions every time we replay an old, hurtful episode in our heads. It makes no sense, for it does us no good and usually affects the other party not a whit.

So, it's important to forgive: important for one's own peace of mind. When we forgive we shunt aside the concomitant negative emotions that rob us of happiness and joy whenever we think upon them. But we're human and such thoughts insist upon resurfacing, and so we must forgive again and again — 7 x 70 times — or as often as necessary. I have to believe that each incidence of forgiveness makes it easier to forgive again the next time the brain dredges up that same recollection. I believe that, as we persist in willing ourselves to be forgiving, we will begin to experience those old, negative emotions less and less often and for shorter and shorter durations. And that will make us happier. You see, forgiveness is about us.

I think there's another linked reason why Jesus taught us to forgive 7 x 70 times. It's that many people will be repeat offenders because they can't change or at least they haven't been able to change yet. Whatever combination of nature and nurture that causes a person to perceive the world as he does and, therefore, to behave as he does is fixed in him until some sort of mind-altering revelation occurs. Of course, many, if not most people, go through the greater parts if not all of their lives without experiencing such an epiphany. And for that, they are to be pitied — forgiven as it were. As often as necessary. For our own sakes if not theirs.

These thoughts are most certainly not original. I have heard this concept expressed and have understood it to some extent for some time. Somehow, however, after recalling these words of Jesus the other morning, I think I grasp the notion better and will be able to live it in a truer way. It won't be an easy, one-time occurrence. Writing these thoughts in this blog post will not be a magic pill but a lesson that I will have to keep reminding myself of — up to 7 x 70 times. But it's important that I apply it because this teaching of Jesus is chiefly for my benefit, for it's the forgiver much more than the forgivee who benefits.

12 comments:

Donna said...

Beautifully said...now if everyone would only "get it"...what a Wonderful world it would be, indeed. Happy day Ac...hughugs

Pam said...

From your blog to the hearts and souls of all those holding a grudge.

Amanda said...

I couldn't say it any better than Donna has. Beautifully written.

Ginger said...

I really appreciate these thoughts, AC. Forgiveness can be a tough thing to do, but you're right, it's all about the one who is needing to forgive.

Here's to more epiphanies during tooth-brushing. :)

Ginnie said...

If I can't forgive I can hardly expect to be forgiven. That always brings me up short.

dabrah said...

I agree about forgiving, because holding onto anger hurts the holder far more than the person at whom it's directed. However, if someone repeatedly behaves in a way that requires forgiveness, I generally try and avoid giving them the opportunity.

womaninawindow said...

I'm not a reigious sort but I do believe there's a lot of weight to what you're saying. There are always reasons, too, for those that inflict the pain. Sometimes they don't even know they're doing it. Forgiveness sometimes isn't always the answer for me, but instead, acceptance and moving on...

Ruth said...

If people could heed this lesson, the world would be a different place. My children had a book called "Don't hug a grudge". It was a delightful story that demonstrated how unforgiveness leads to grudges, resentment and bitterness. Bitter people are most unpleasant. It is the forgiver that benefits most.

dani said...

when i was "born again" (if you will), i think forgiveness was the hardest thing to grasp. it still is at times. but, something that really worked for me was to ask God to take the thoughts away from me. He never failed to honor my request.
however, there have still been many times that i would get angry and not want to hand it over to Him right away; humanly i would just want to remain angry for a while (validation)... even knowing that it was a negative thing.
~dani (us:ky)
ps is your dog a king charles cavalier??? i have one; her name is maggie:D

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

Amen!

Linda said...

Thank you for this reminder on how to live. I needed that.

daffy said...

Wow AC! (again! - I'm going backwards..) Well worth the read!