On any given day, if you asked me if I forgive people easily, I would probably say yes. I practically throw my shoulders out of joint patting myself on the back for my generous spirit when it comes to not holding a grudge.
But then I have to remind myself about the first few years of marriage to Bill. Man, we had some serious battles, mostly about stupid things. He always forgot about the fight almost immediately. But me? I could hang on to my anger for an inordinately long time. If holding grudges was an Olympic event, I would take the Gold Medal, and cry during the National Anthem.
We always worked it out, and as the years have gone by, we have both mellowed. We now rarely fight, and when we do, it’s mostly over in minutes. Time is just too precious these days. Plus, I find it much easier to say both “I’m sorry,” or “I accept your apology.”
The second reading at Mass this past weekend was from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians. People who know their bible have strong feelings about Paul’s letter to the Colossians. People who are less familiar (such as this blogger) only know that Paul wrote a letter to the Colossians, and wonder where the hell Colossia is. (It’s actually Colossae, and it was in present-day Turkey. I looked it up.)
The strong feelings come from the section of the letter in which Paul pisses off every wife in the world by instructing her to “be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord.” Priests and ministers have tried for years to wash that section over by explaining that Paul then goes on to ask husbands to love their wives. It never works. Paul just gets on every wife’s very last nerve.
The past few years, I have noticed that the Catholic Church has made reading that part of the letter optional, and most churches choose to leave out that section, as it is too difficult to explain away. I’m frankly happy not to hear those words.
One of the sad things about people being so annoyed at St. Paul’s letter is that they never hear other parts of the letter, which are quite beautiful. As I heard the words read to me yesterday, I was struck at how important the idea of forgiveness was to Jesus. He preached about it often.
Paul reminds us of Jesus’ strong feelings about forgiveness by writing: Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.
Though as a writer, the unnecessarily long sentence offends my sensibilities, Paul’s plea that we forgive one another as God forgives us strikes a note with me. It’s not always easy. In fact, it’s almost never easy. When someone pulls out in front of me as though my bright yellow Volkswagen bug is invisible, I am inclined to get mad and scream as though they can hear me. Perhaps if I listen to Paul, instead of getting mad, I should say a prayer for that person. Who knows what’s going on in their life?
Now is the time when I’m thinking about New Year’s resolutions. What about making forgiveness something that becomes second nature to me? Hey. It could happen.