How Many Times Do I Have to Forgive?

How Many Times Do I Have to Forgive?

SLIDE 3: HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO FORGIVE?

X HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO FORGIVELast Sunday we explored Paul’s admonition not to seek revenge but to love instead. Return no one evil for evil. This morning we examine Peter’s question of Jesus, “How many times do I have to forgive, as many as seven times?”

In order to appreciate Peter’s question we need to understand that several of the rabbis in the First Century had worked out a consensus about the question of forgiveness. They claimed a good Jew was obligated to forgive their neighbor three times for any particular wrong doing. First time, maybe they weren’t aware of what they had done. Second time, they forgot or were careless. Third time was going the extra mile, but after three times for the same offense there was no obligation to forgive. So when Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Is seven times enough?” He was more than doubling the consensus of the rabbis.

SLIDE 4: LOVE KEEPS NO RECORD OF WRONGS

X LOVE KEEPS NO RECORD OF WRONGSI suspect the meaning of Jesus’ answer was that love does not keep count of the trespasses. This past week Beth and I celebrated our thirty-seventh wedding anniversary, and I am reminded of a comment of a colleague of mine, that any couple who has been married for a whole year has grounds for divorce. Long term relationships, whether friendships or marriages, work relationships or membership in a community cannot be sustained without forgiveness. We make too many blunders, too many errors in judgment, too many mistakes of commission and omission. We are human.

SLIDE 5: HEALTHY BOUNDARIES

X HEALTHY BOUNDARIESNow at the same time we talk about forgiving one another, when we mess up, Jesus does not want us to serve as anyone else’s door mat, or punching bag, or enabler. Jesus asks us to forgive one another, and he also encourages us to establish healthy boundaries in our relationships.

SLIDE 6: MENDING WALL

As I think about establishing limits in relationship I am reminded of Robert Frost’s poem, “Mending Wall,” published 100 years ago:

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,

And spills the upper boulders in the sun;

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

The work of hunters is another thing:

I have come after them and made repair

Where they have left not one stone on a stone,

X MENDING WALLBut they would have the rabbit out of hiding,

To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,

No one has seen them made or heard them made,

But at spring mending-time we find them there.

I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;

And on a day we meet to walk the line

And set the wall between us once again.

We keep the wall between us as we go.

To each the boulders that have fallen to each.

And some are loaves and some so nearly balls

We have to use a spell to make them balance:

“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”

We wear our fingers rough with handling them.

Oh, just another kind of out-door game,

One on a side. It comes to little more:

There where it is we do not need the wall:

He is all pine and I am apple orchard.

My apple trees will never get across

And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.

He only says, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder

If I could put a notion in his head:

“Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it

Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offense.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,

That wants it down.” I could say “Elves” to him,

But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather

He said it for himself. I see him there

Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top

In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.

He moves in darkness as it seems to me,

Not of woods only and the shade of trees.

He will not go behind his father’s saying,

And he likes having thought of it so well

He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

 

SLIDE 7: BARRIERS TO RELATIONSHIP

X BARRIERS TO RELATIONSHIPIn part the poem laments barriers to relationship. Something there is that doesn’t love a wall. . . There where it is we do not need the wall: He is all pine and I am apple orchard. My apple trees will never get across and eat the cones under his pines, I tell him. He only says, “God fences make good neighbors.”

SLIDE 8: INTROVERTS NEED MORE SPACE

X INTROVERTS NEED MORE SPACEAs an introvert I am aware that I have missed opportunities for friendship, because my barriers to relationship have probably been too high. But I have to be who I am and honor my needs for alone time – or as our granddaughter calls it “Sophie time.” In order to be the people God created us to be we need to be able to establish healthy limits in relationships. So let’s take a few minutes and talk about healthy boundaries.

SLIDE 9: LOVE AND RESPECT YOURSELF

X LOVE AND RESPECT YOURSELFFirst, let us recognize that healthy boundaries are a form of self-care. Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” And in order to love ourselves we have to respect and take care of ourselves. We cannot love anyone else if we do not nurture ourselves. Now let me make a confession. I have been a people pleaser all of my life. I want people to like me and appreciate me. But that has always left me open to being taken advantage. Other people want to define who you should be and how you should serve them. Their needs should come first all the time. And in the flurry of activity to take care of everyone else I often lose track of who I am and my needs.

SLIDE 10: RELATIONSHIPS BASED UPON EXPLOITATION OR MANIPULATION ARE NOT WORTH HAVING

X RELATIONSHIPS BASED UPONThat is one set of boundaries, being able to say no, and appropriately taking care of self. Unhealthy people in our lives will try to make us feel guilty for taking care of ourselves rather than their every need. They may threaten not to like us or go away mad or withhold approval. If we give in to those kinds of threats, we will only become miserable and resentful, and once resentment grows the relationship soon becomes worthless. Relationships based upon exploitation or manipulation are not worth having.

SLIDE 11: KNOWING OUR LIMITS

X KNOWING OUR LIMITSSo how do we set healthy boundaries? First, we can think about and establish in our own minds what are our limits. As much as possible we can identify our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual limits. That way we don’t get run over by a truck and then cluelessly wonder what happened.

SLIDE 12: PAY ATTENTION TO FEELINGS

X PAY ATTENTION TO FEELINGSSecond, we can pay attention to our feelings. When something doesn’t feel right in a meeting, a relationship, an encounter, ask, “What’s going on here that I don’t feel O.K. about?” We can trust our gut enough to at least question what is going on. Maybe it is nothing. Maybe the problem is us. Maybe we need to talk it over with a good spiritual friend to get perspective. But like the old saying says, “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.”

SLIDE 13: DIRECT AND CLEAR ABOUT LIMITS

X DIRECT AND CLEAR ABOUT LIMITSThird, we can be direct and clear cut with other people about our limits.   If we can communicate boundaries in advance we have a better chance of avoiding anger that may cloud the issues. We don’t want to end up in an argument about whether or not our needs are valid.

When someone crosses the line we can communicate clearly assertively in the present moment that we object to what they have done. If we wait three months and only communicate after they have crossed the line ten times, well closing the barn door after the horse is out is not every effective. Pre-emptive communication is better than damage control.

SLIDE 14: AGGRESSIVE OR ASSERTIVE?

X AGGRESSIVE OR ASSERTIVEOf course there can be a fine line between assertive and aggressive. When we were staying in a motel on St. George’s Island there were notes all over the room, and as Beth noted, every single note was a negative, not a positive one in the bunch. Not even a have a nice day. I mean who would want to book a return to a place like that. It reminds me of some other notes and notices I have seen.

 

SLIDE 15: JESUS IS WATCHING

X JESUS IS WATCHINGPerhaps this is the best.

 

 

SLIDE 16: AGGRESSIVE RATHER THAN ASSERTIVE

X AGGRESSIVE RATHER THAN ASSERTIVEBut this is definitely aggressive rather than assertive.

SLIDE 17: SETTING BOUNDARIES IS OUR RESPONSIBILITY

X SETTING BOUNDARIES IS OUR RESPONSIBILITYHealthy boundaries make good neighbors. Setting boundaries is our responsibility, we cannot expect other people to intuit our limits. But once we have established limits, if someone continually oversteps the bounds, we may have to limit relationship. In some cases sad though it is we may have to walk away. Walking away from toxic relationships, however, does not prevent forgiveness. How many times must we forgive?

SLIDE 18: WE FORGIVE SO WE MIGHT EXPERIENCE PEACE AND HEALING

X WE FORGIVE SO WE MIGHT EXPERIENCEWell, we don’t forgive for the sake of the other person. We forgive for our own spiritual welfare. We do not forgive because someone deserves our forgiveness, but so that we might have peace and healing.

SLIDE 10: GOOD BOUNDARIES MAKE GOOD NEIGHBORS

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know

X GOOD BOUNDARIES MAKE GOOD NEIGHBORSWhat I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offense.

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall. . .

There where it is we do not need the wall:

He is all pine and I am apple orchard.

My apple trees will never get across

And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.

He only says, “Good fences make good neighbors.”

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