One of those questions. I’d just answered the phone. I showed restraint.
“Be there in a sec.” Silly to respond, since Dickerson had already clicked off. I leaned back in my chair, enjoying a sip of fresh-brewed Sumatra. Since nutrition – any nutrition – is important to me I occasionally fortify my java with milk or cream and real sugar. This morning was one of those times. Nstp nstp… –needs more sugar. One more spoonful oughta do it.
I wandered back over to my chair, stirring and thinking.
No one actually hangs up any more. With the onset of cell phones, hanging up is an archaic term. I suppose it’s ‘progress’. Once we could sharply say into the mouthpiece, “I’m hanging up, now” and commandingly slam the handset back on the phone, knowing the crash could be heard in Iowa. Somehow, saying “I’m viciously clicking off now” just doesn’t have the same, ah, impact as——
“Help yourself to—-” He’d already reached to pour himself some coffee. He was wearing a cheap digital black plastic watch instead of his stainless steel Seiko. That would hack anybody off.
I noticed him looking around.
“What–no donuts? Not even a lousy bagel? What gives?”
“Wouldn’t want your thirty-inch waist ballooning out to thirty-one, would we?”
“Oh, ha-ha. We aren’t all like you, eating everything in sight without gaining. Oughta call you PacMan! Don’t you have anything here to eat?”
I wiped an imaginary crumb from my chin. He snorted and flopped in his favorite chair–a feat I thought amazing considering he only spilled a drop or two of good joe on his pants. He was preoccupied with something heavy. He absentmindedly dabbed at the spot with his hand.
I’d recently read something poet Theodore Roethke jotted: “May my silences become more accurate.” I thought now would be a good time to practice that. I didn’t have to wait very—-
“Look, what do you do with people who do and say things to hurt you and make no effort to make amends or even apologize?”
“Forgive them.” I held a hand up in international signage for ‘STOP’ at his anticipated outrage. “Instantly, unconditionally offer forgiveness, especially in response to apologies you never receive.”
“Wait. That doesn’t reach them because they never said they’re sorry. Doesn’t there need to be an apology given for this to work? I mean, half the “transaction” (he curled the first two fingers of both hands, pawing the air) is the realization and confession of wrongdoing. So, how does forgiving somebody when there’s no sorrow nor desire to make things right affect them?”
“Not at all in the immediate sense.”
“Well, then, what’s the diff? If they don’t or won’t care enough to admit whatever, why bother? If they don’t love you enough to want to do the right thing and set things straight, why lay yourself open to even more rotten treatment and ridicule? Where’s the value in that?”
I wondered where he was going with this. I wondered what had caused this to trouble him so. I wondered whether that spot would come out of his uniform pants.
“In your heart and mind. The value is that no matter how small other people may be inside, the only force they can exert over you is what YOU ALLOW. When you openly, unconditionally forgive them you remove their ability to control how you feel. You release your own spirit to keep expanding, and yourself to keep growing. You also remove the tightening you feel inside whenever you’re around them, and the vengeful thoughts that pop into your mind whenever you hear their name. Do you see how powerful a force for Good forgiveness can be?”
Dickerson nodded, then frowned.
“But they did wrong things. Probably still doing them, and just laugh and sneer at me.”
“You don’t think God knows that? Read the Bible. God knows what’s going down. He sees it all and when the time’s right He’ll make it right. Scripture’s pretty clear: God doesn’t want anybody to be lost but for everyone to get their lives straightened out and make it to Heaven. And it’s just as clear that God won’t just keep looking the other way and putting up with any of our wilfulness, either. The Bible’s full of accounts of how God brought people to justice, especially when they thought they’d put one over on Him and His people. You don’t need to worry about God somehow not ‘getting’ it. He’s got it.”
The young deputy sat thinking, fiddling with the ill-fitting cheap watch.
“So forgiving somebody who never apologizes for what they’ve done has very little if any effect on them, but everything to do with giving myself release and freedom to keep growing inside?”
“Exactly! But that’s not all.” I was refilling my coffee cup and adding more sugar while I spoke. “It naturally sweetens your spirit, your disposition toward them. They can sense it. They may not understand why you’re not uneasy or on edge around them, which is often what they’re trying to cause. But they’ll pick up on it. It’s like something I read recently about people who spend their days strip-mining the vast grey zone between right and wrong. That doesn’t mean they don’t know the difference.
I glanced over at him. He was thinking about that coffee spot, too.
“After what they’ve done to hurt and lash out at you, you’re not responding according to the script they have in their minds. You don’t just say you love them anyway. You’re living it right in front of them and everyone around them. None of this gossiping or backbiting about them or letting others do it when they’re not around. You really are loving and forgiving them just as Jesus did for you: before you ever even thought about saying you were sorry.
“Oh, yeah. Forgiveness is freedom for you! It doesn’t ignore others’ duplicity or wrongdoing, but neither does it demand an apology first. Forgiveness–unconditional, instant forgiveness–relinquishes control of people and situations to God, leaving it ALL in His hands.
“But you–YOU are FREE.
“And THAT, my young friend, is PRICELESS!”
At least he didn’t slam the door on his way out. It’s a start.
Maybe I should’ve mentioned the glazed crullers I had in my desk drawer.
© D. Dean Boone, June 2013