Forgiveness is important, it sets you free out of a bitter prison that, the offender put you in, but by not forgiving that person, you have locked yourself in it (thank you Philip Yancey for what you taught me from "What's So Amazing About Grace?"). Grace overlooks the offense and holds open its arms to the person who has caused damage. I was thinking last night that grace, once given, does amazing things for both the person offering it and the person receiving it. The person who receives it feels the humbling affects. If they don't have any conviction for their actions they will still be in awe because they have seen how much they've hurt you.
I was thinking about grace because I realized we all need it. We have all been on both sides of the coin (so you'd think we'd be better at it by now) and know it is better than being trapped in anger, although anger is certainly the easier route.
We all have come across people who have been deeply affected by the treatment they've received. Maybe we don't even know the person's story, but because of a past trauma or hurt it has severely affected their interpersonal relationships. I recalled a funny encounter I had my first semester at college that humorously illustrates my point:
The townhouse that I lived in that semester had problems of varying kinds. Whenever it acted up, our landlord sent a repair man to come and fix it. Every time, Deon, I believe was his name, would come and take care of it. I was always there so we'd chat and I found him to be a nice fellow. When something acted up again for the umpteenth time and I opened the door to see Deon, I exclaimed with unabashed enthusiasm, "Yay! I hoped it would be you!" An unmistakeable look of panic came over his face and I felt suddenly foolish. I was thinking: what's the problem? He'd always engaged in conversation with us before, why would he be surprised I'd be happy to see him? I was friendly, not flirty, so I knew I hadn't made him uncomfortable. Thankfully, he told me and one of my roommates that he suspected a girl at another property was purposefully breaking things so he could come over. Apparently she'd frightened him enough to be afraid I was the same way! Luckily, he realized I was truly mortified by his story and he was easily convinced I was not stalking him LOL
When I remembered this story I thought about how we aren't always so fortunate as to know what has happened in others' lives to know why they respond negatively to us or why our love is met with rejection or skepticism. In giving grace to others for whatever the circumstance, we are showing someone we are trustworthy and loving. Whenever we go into meetings or relationships with other people we must bring grace along with us. Everyone has a story. Everyone has pain, and everyone handles it differently. Expectations are dangerous, boundaries are essential and grace is the glue that holds it all together.
Whenever I have a hard time with giving someone grace, I remember that I need it too and that God sending us Jesus was the greatest example of of grace of all time.