Thursday, August 11, 2005


Forgiveness: Wrong, or Wronged?

(Posted concurrently at Gladmanly and Dadmanly)

I wrote the following in response to a friend, and thought I would share it with my readers.

I have learned, much of it the hard way, that all organizations have dynamics, and that people's motivations are never as clear cut as they seem to me. Everyone, myself included, can experience bouts of selfishness and complete self-interest, but many times, we are in a mix of emotions and motivations about just about anything.

Sometimes people mean us harm personally. Often, hurts are unintended. Most usually, even when we mean to hurt someone spitefully, we may not have a full or even good understanding of how hurtful our actions or words are.

I went through the twelve steps, I made up about three different moral inventories, a lot of the contents were the same, but each time there were new things to ask God forgiveness for, and new things I needed to prayerfully consider whether and how to make amends.

I have had bosses I despised, some I hated, some I did not respect, and some that I knew in my heart they were either venal, corrupt, or incapable of doing their job as well as I thought they should have. I sat in judgment, and I grew angrier and angrier, full of righteous indignation. Some of these situations were military, some involved either my employer managers or client managers or customers. (I'm a salaried employee who earns my company money through consulting assignments with other corporations or governmental agencies.)

I was on a track (it wasn't fast, but by sheer determination and assertiveness, I was on it) for senior management, and I started down a road that involved longer hours, harder trade-offs, complexity, uncertainty, greater ego battles, more competition, and LOTS more judgment of others.

Thank God, with the help of Him and the good counsel of Mrs. Dadmanly, I stepped off that track. I regret it at times -- I still don't like the decisions that are made -- but I am more rested, calmer, less stressed, I enjoy my status and stature as a subject matter expert and veteran consultant -- they defer to me a lot more now that I am not actively competing against them -- and I have to say I've found more joy and contentment, and found a manner of work and "doing my job" that allows my family time and interests to stay Number 1, 40 hours a week job and that's all.

In the Army, it's been somewhat different. I am in a leadership position, but I have superiors, and there are many situations where I must obey, and I must expect and direct my subordinates to do likewise, even if I would do differently or disagree. I mediate where I can, I soften, I try to lessen impacts of bad decisions, I will even keep up (some) resistance or at least continue to advise against courses of action where I can without jeopardizing good military order.

But I have come to realize even there, that you can allow your subordinates too much latitude, you can lose their respect, you can degrade motivation and performance, and you can sometimes even jeopardize your authority by not running a tight enough ship. I am most often the Good Cop to my CSMs Bad Cop, but I often pay the price of not having immediate obedience when I need it. Thank goodness, we haven't been in life or death situations yet, but that could happen, and the Drill Sergeant leadership model makes certain you have it when you need it, while it is sometimes forced or grudging; whereas the friendlier, more accommodating style I usually adopt can sometimes leave me vulnerable or not having full control when I need it.

Scripture makes frequent mention of slaves and masters, authority, and how we as Christians are to render proper obedience to our Masters. The modern equivalent of the Master Servant relationship is the employer and employee.

I had a Commander once who was amazingly selfish, self-centered, prideful, arrogant, hurtful, spiteful, vengeful... I could go on. But my point is, even though I felt he was totally unsuited to Command, unless and until he issued an unlawful order or crossed a line where obeying his order harmed our soldiers unnecessarily, I had to obey. It was wrong when I talked about him behind his back. It was wrong when we traded stories about what a Jack a** he was. (All human, all understandable, but as a Christian, I'm convicted that I often need to ask forgiveness for the many times I condemned him with judgment. I think I even said once, "G - D him straight to hell," God forgive me.) He was chosen and placed in that position to make those decisions, and it was not my place or job or duty to make sure his decisions were best or even advisable.

It wasn't about him, he was beset by evil, enmeshed, he dwelt in sin. It was about me. By yielding to that anger and judgment, I allowed the devil a foothold.

I need to be able to forgive even my enemies. And that helps me be the Christian witness God wants me to be.

I have found that there are those I have hurt, whose feelings I have hurt, even though I meant no harm. I have sometimes hurt people in ways I didn't know about. In the same way that I may have history that makes me very susceptible or vulnerable to certain patterns of behavior, or awakening of deeper hurts, it may be that those with whom we are in conflict with likewise have secrets or hidden scars or other circumstances or dynamics we don't know about. Doesn't make them right, but it may explain why they act or react the way they do.

I know what I know about my first wife and our failed marriage and divorce. I became a born again Christian after that, and am in a committed Christian Marriage before God with another Christian that had a similar situation, and was likewise redeemed and renewed and given a second chance on the way God intended husband and wife to bond -- not to fill the empty parts or fix what's broke -- but to be co-equals, partners, and draw closer to each other as we each draw closer to God.

I know the scars I carry from my failed marriage. I know the sins committed against me. But I also know that, because of her scars, her terrible experiences, there were ways that without meaning to I hurt her deeply in ways that I wasn't able to see at first. I needed to do what I could to make amends unless to do so would hurt that person or others. And it didn't matter that she could not come to a place to forgive me, I needed to forgive her.

I've had to do the same with family. I can't say I'm 100% all the way there yet, but I know making amends is not going to always work reconciliation, nor should it, nor can we expect forgiveness, and may even receive hostility. But we step forward in faith, we do what He would have us do, we do what we need to do for ourselves, and then turn the hurt, the wrong, the working out of our salvation over to Him.

(Linked at Mudville Gazette's Open Post)

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