Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Prayer and Forgiveness

Years ago I was wronged by someone I worked with.  The details don't matter, because as Viktor Frankl says, pain is like a gas, expanding to fill the available space.  Even if it was a small offense, it swelled until it filled me.

I told a friend about it, who listened patiently to my story.  When I was done, he said, sympathetically, "You need to pray for him and ask God to bless him."

What I had hoped to hear was something more like "Wow, what a waste of skin that guy is.  Your anger is justified."

Now that I have the increasing clarity that comes when time separates us from painful events, I think my friend was right.  His idea of God is that God wants all of us to be better than we are.

Praying for my former co-worker has allowed me to remove him from the center of my consciousness, where his image lived as a threatening villain, and to think of him as someone in need of healing and transformation.  Blessing him has given me a way to articulate my desire to see him change and become a kinder person, for everyone's sake.

No doubt theology matters here.  In plainer terms, how we imagine the God we pray to matters, because that will shape the way we act towards others.  At the risk of declaring the obvious: what we think about God has consequences for the way we live with other people.  In her book, Lit, Mary Karr talks about a friend who tells her that God doesn't have a plan for her, God has a dream for her.  God wants good things for her.

That's an attractive idea of God, one who wants us to forgive others so we can be set free from their tyranny; and one who wants us to bless others so that we can begin to see ourselves as agents of positive change rather than as victims.

No comments:

Post a Comment