Heard that before? Yeah, I bet you have, and it is quite trite at this point. Let’s be honest with ourselves, we don’t do this. Oh, you do? Do you let people be who they are now, or do you always remember how they were as a teenager or young adult?
So I have said it a bunch of times, history matters. But to learn from, not to use as a weapon. This post brought to you by The Lorax.
If any of you knew me when I was younger, I was a selfish, entitled, proud, little sh*t. And that is just considering my public sins, not my private ones. Oh sure I could be empathetic and sweet but I also have a terrible temper and a quick one, and more than one object was broken on that account, including my own hand.
I asked and ask forgiveness for this. And I have been reconciled with God. So that means I have a clean slate, right?
Well, yes, but we as people have a problem with that. We hang on, and sometimes that hanging on drives our brothers and sisters away. Now, instead of having a clean slate we are confronted with how others remember our past, and quite frankly this is not Christian.
You see, people can change. Whoever says otherwise doesn’t know their ass from their elbow. It’s our Christian duty to allow that change and nourish that change. A good metaphor here is a potted tree. If you water and cultivate it, then the tree will grow as big as it can in the confines of that pot. If we don’t repot it into a bigger pot or better still plant it in nature, it will never reach potential. Sometimes people are their own pots. But more often than not, people will start to grow and mature, but when they are compared with their past they become potted trees again in a pot of someone else’s making.
This is the lesson, and before anyone comes at me and says past behavior equals present tendencies, I’m going to stop you and bring it deeper, and use myself as an example.
I think I have shared that I was entitled and it took a sit down conversation, a come to Jesus moment, for someone to point it out to me. I still remember and think about it with shame, but I hope that my behavior changed afterward. I know I tried. And the person who gave me that talk has since allowed me to grow from there and change. Does that mean I was a saint? No, because the behavior came back, when I began a different job, and I felt an injustice was done to me. I whined and complained but when I cooled down I saw my behavior and recognized I fell and tried to get back up and change again. A dead branch on the tree, pruning will take care of it. So past tendencies are hard to break, but if a person repents and is trying to change and grow, we have the duty to let them grow.
More powerful are the words of Scott Hahn, when he talks about the Lord’s Prayer. “Forgive us our trespasses”, we are asking the Father for forgiveness. “As we forgive those who trespass against us”, we are asking for forgiveness the same way we forgive other people!!!! So if we forgive but always remember and bring it up, do we want God to forgive us, but always remember and keep bringing it up!?!? I have terrible sins! I want to move on from them, but now I am not doing to others what I want God to do for me?!? Wasn’t that the parable of the servant who was forgiven his debt but wouldn’t do the same for his fellow servant?
Another metaphor. When we hold a changed or repentant person accountable for all of their past actions, we are shackling weights to them that they cannot overcome. It’s dominance. It’s us using the past to cripple our brothers, to seem better than they are because of what they have done in the past.
As I grow older, I find it is easier to understand how a Christian can live the Gospels, because Jesus laid it all out there. The Lord’s Prayer is the guidepost for how we are to forgive. Then Jesus puts it into practice with the woman caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” It would seem sometimes that modern translations add in, ‘”Harlot,” He muttered under His breath. ‘ All jokes aside, we know He forgave and forgot.
That’s what we are called to do. I hope that no one is judging me only on my past, because hopefully I have grown and matured. I hope I am not doing the same thing to others. My hope is that when confronted with someone, like me, who was a little sh*t, we can acknowledge in our heads the change that has happened, the growth, and rather than cling to the difference and always compare them, that we instead find the joy of that growth and embark on that journey with them!
Their growth may help our own growth.