Thursday, September 6, 2012


The Christian religion likes to talk about forgiveness. Tons of words have been poured out to address how to forgive to let the hurt go. I used to wonder just who those people were, the ones who won't, or find it hard to forgive. I had no such problem nor difficulty. I was above the fray. I tried to think if I'd ever felt bitterness towards anyone for a sufficiently long period. And I always answered that question with "No."

As far as I could recall, I had only treated two people I've known to utter distain and disregard. I refused to acknowledge their existence in social occasions, I would not give them the time of the day. Then again, I never saw that as un-forgiveness. After all I did not hate them in my heart. I was not serious about my attitude toward them. I might as well be indifferent to the wrong they had done me.

I didn't know what hate was like. I hated no one. What was there to forgive? Forgiveness was an issue of others, not mine.

Until now. That is to say, until I began to give it another look. You see, six-years being Catholic has given me enough opportunities to be humble and put me on edge. I've learned, often through humiliation, that no assumption except God's mercy is safe. Just when you think you've gotten it all figured out along the straight and the narrow, something comes along to reveal the truth you don't want to see and shake you out of complacency (Flannery O'Connor more than anyone, has helped me to be on guard against complacency. Think Green Leaf, A Goodman is Hard to Find,  A Circle of Fire, The Comfort of Home).

And those revelations don't have to be big. Rather, they infiltrate like gnats or fleas or bedbugs. You either don't see them or don't take them serious. Yet they move in steadily, sucking your blood. The damages they do can hardly be called hurt; but the irritations they cause distract and erode your soul.

And I am constantly irritated and distracted. Anyone who's ever sat in the pew in a Sunday service or Mass knows just how hard it is to overlook the ridiculous outfit or a lame hairdo someone has on; or why that parent has to rub the back of her teenage boy throughout consecration; doesn't the father know that he shouldn't let his son wear the hat in Church? Why are my students such block-heads? And you already know how I feel about New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.

I can go on with many, many such examples. But to put it short, I've begun to be conscious of my preoccupations with these small irritations and grudges. I see their danger. I'm re-accessing my presumed magnanimity and I'm seeing laughable pride I had in myself.

If I truly want to be free, I need to be free of my own assumptions.

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