Forgive your neighbor’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven. – Sirach 28:2
What are these injustices of our neighbors? They are the actions or words of our family, friends, coworkers and others, that cause us emotional, physical or financial pain. Sometimes they are major injustices, such as: physical harm, property damage, financial loss; but more often they are minor: a rude word, a thoughtless action, a forgotten promise.
Think about the injustices that you have had to endure so far today. I bet that many of them fall into the “minor” category (at least I am hoping that they do). Now think about your actions during this day and consider if any of them would qualify as an injustice toward another. My experience is that if you soul search long enough, then you will discover that you are guilty of many of the same injustices by which you feel wronged.
Today’s fast-paced, zero tolerance business and family environments often result in many unintentional injustices. We have become so crunched on time, that we neglect to truly consider what we are doing or saying, and how it affects those around us. We encounter a situation and want to resolve it quickly because we know that another situation is just waiting to flare up. Multiple minor injustices are traded back and forth throughout the day, and before long, we are awashed in a sea of ignorance. But we are never the ones directly responsible for that ignorance, right?
The truth is that many of us create a double standard in this regard. We insist that our own shortcomings be overlooked, while we hold others accountable for theirs. We demand that others not be so thin-skinned in response to our harsh words, right before demanding apologies for the same words when directed at us. The two verses that follow this post’s topic quote challenge this double standard:
- Should a man nourish anger against his fellows and expect healing from the Lord?
- Should a man refuse mercy to his fellows, yet seek pardon for his own sins?
When we delay the victim response, we open ourselves to loving even our worst critics. This may deny us the satisfaction of holding a grudge, but the resulting peace frees us to move forward while carrying less baggage. Obviously we are not to overlook harmful negligence, but we are expected to empathize with and provide loving correction to our neighbor. And we must be open to receiving the same.