When forgiving is difficult

People would probably call it a personality clash. A teacher at the school where I worked had never liked me, and now that we had to work more closely together, he became malicious.

What was I to do? I knew that as a Christian I was supposed to forgive him, but how could I in the face of such gross injustice?

On the way to school each morning I'd resolve to feel nothing but brotherly love for this man, no matter how he treated me. Each day I'd return home a failure. I kept reading Christ Jesus' gentle admonition; "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you." n1 But doing what it demanded was tough.

n1 Matthew 5:44.

In my struggle with frustration, though, I never stopped praying. Finally I saw that the battle was not really with another person. It was with myself.

About that time I found an amazing article entitled "Love Your Enemies" in the writings of Mary Baker Eddy. n2 "Who is thine enemy that thou shouldst love him?" she asks. "Is it a creature or a thing outside thine own creation?"

n2 Mrs. Eddy is the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science.

Further in the article she states, "Simply count your enemy to be that which defiles, defaces, and dethrones the Christ- image that you should reflect." n3

n3 Miscellaneous Writings,m p. 8.

As I fought to preserve the Christly meekness and love I knew I should manifest, the impersonal nature of this man's hostile words and acts became increasingly clear. Since they obviously were not instigated or supported by God in His love, why should I give them even momentary power by responding to them?

It occured to me that the teacher who was unjustly persecuting me must be very unhappy. Feelings of compassion welled up within me as I considered this, and all anger drained away. Shortly after, the persecution lessened and then ceased.

"I must be healed!" I thought, yet went on praying about the situation, still feeling a need to be thoroughly cleansed of the whole nasty experience. Finally my compassion changed. Perhaps, without my realizing it , there had intially been feelings of superiority mixed in with the feelings of compassion. But as I continued to pray, any holier-than-thou attitude left me.

A few weeks later the man approached me to say that he'd been under a lot of pressure lately and was sorry if he'd caused me any inconvenience. An Apology? I couldn't believe it! He was not known to apologize to anyone. "This is the completem healing," I decided.

But I was wrong. A few months later, as the school year was coming to an end , some students asked if we could invite this teacher to a party we were planning. I hesitantly agreed. However, during the course of the party I realized how nice it was to have him there. We might never be bosom pals -- we really did have different sets of values -- but the man was intelligent, vivacious, and witty. With a great sense of relief I realized that I was quite comfortable in his presence, and I knew then that I'd forgiven him.

Forgiving wrongs doesn't always come easily, but by seeing, in deeply Christian prayer, that they have no basis in God's man -- that they have no God-given reality, at all -- we can preserve our awareness of God's allness and power. The Christ-image that we should and can reflect need not be defiled, defaced, or dethroned. With divine help we canm forgive. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I ha te, saith the Lord. Zechariah 8:17

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