Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” – Matthew 18:21-22
Matthew’s verse is usually offered in the spirit of urging us to forgive others, often and endlessly. However, I prefer to approach it from the viewpoint of one who is in need of the forgiveness of others. It is an unfortunate fact of life that our brothers and sisters are just as human as ourselves; and much like we can wear out their hospitality, we can wear out their forgiveness too. Often that forgiveness is not needed due to any major harm or wrong doing, but rather as the result of an excessive reliance or imposition on them.
Think for a moment about a situation in which you are constantly relied upon to bail out another; be it a family member, counterpart or group. We can easily become a crutch for others when we come to their aid and prevent failure in the wake of their poor planning. If that sounds familiar, then what is the one thing that you truly want in that relationship? I would bet that you answered in some manner of wanting the other party to plan ahead, to use better judgement, or to learn how to perform whatever task they continually call upon you for.
Well the same holds true when the tables are turned, and over time our lack of improvement results in pushing others to the edge of forgiveness. Once there, a formerly amicable relationship becomes characterized by impatience, anger, and ultimately avoidance. I recently came across a posting on Facebook that alluded to this:
“I usually give people more chances than they deserve BUT once I’m done, I’m DONE.”
So take a few moments and think about any recurring issues or arguments that may be affecting a relationship in your life. If you can trace the problem back to an action, or lack thereof, then try to identify areas for improvement. Don’t be afraid to go to the other party and apologize. Ask for their input. After all, it is always better to capture their concerns while they are still talking to you.
And for those of you keeping score, seventy times seven equals 490 times. Good luck keeping tabs on that one!