Real Help for Real Living
Some years ago, after having a BAD day, I walked into Books-A-Million at Concord Mills Mall and asked, “Do you have the book ‘Don’t Let the Jerks Get the Best of You’ by psychologist Paul Meier?” I need to do some research.
In his book, Meier says all of us are jerks, and all of us are affected by jerks. He defines jerks in three levels:
• First-level jerks. They don’t willfully hurt others, but they do. They feel the guilt for what they have done.
• Second-level jerks. They willfully hurt others, and eventually do feel the guilt even if it takes a long time.
• Third-level jerks. Willfully hurt others and feel no guilt.
Meier goes on to say that he was a second level jerk when he threw a cup of soda out his driver window into an open convertible Volkswagen Bug. His reason? It was moving too slow on the highway. It took his wife a few days to convince him that what he did was willful and very unchristian.
Meier goes on to say a classic sign of a second-level or third-level jerk is the inability to ever admit that another point of view might have some merit (a sign of denial, rationalization or Phariseeism). Second-level or third-level jerks often lose friends, but they seldom lose arguments. Their defenses are just too strong.
What helped me deal with those that hurt me is a definition of forgiveness I heard from Dr. Archibald Hart. He states: “Forgiveness is giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me.”
I had always thought that forgiving is forgetting. I realized it’s not. To test this, I asked the women in the Charlotte Rescue Mission Dove’s Nest program a question. Since 95 percent of them have a history of sexual abuse, I painted this scenario for them: “Suppose you were 5 years old and your mother dropped you off at your uncle’s house to baby sit you while she worked on the weekend. During the next three years, he sexually abused you. Thirty years later you have a 5-year-old daughter. Would you let your 5-year-old daughter spend the weekend alone with that same uncle?”
In almost 16 years at the rescue mission, no woman has ever said yes. When we forget, we put ourselves and the people we love in harm’s way. There is a scripture verse that says, “Don’t cast your pearls before swine, they will trample them under foot, turn and charge against you.”
Rather than forget, I’ve used Hart’s definition of forgiveness. The street version of that is: “I give up my right to rearrange your face for hurting me.”
If forgiving is not forgetting, what do I do with the relationship with the person who has offended me? Forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things. While God calls me to give up my right to hurt someone for hurting me (forgiveness), I may not always have reconciliation with the offender. To reconcile, the other person needs to say to me: “I’m sorry, I was wrong.” Without hearing that, I will forgive them but we may not have reconciliation.
So what do you do with those who don’t seek to reconcile their relationship with you? Pray for them. Matthew 5:44 says, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Other translations say, pray for those who despitefully use you or hate you, spitefully use you, insult you, or curse you.
I have learned to ask God to bless them. In fact one prayer I prayed was that God would greatly increase their herd of camels.
So tomorrow morning when you walk out your front door and find 10 camels on your neighbor’s front lawn, either they are planning an expedition to the Middle East or they are someone I asked God to mightily bless.
I’ll be back in two weeks. Until then, live well, my friend.
The Rev. Tony Marciano is executive director of the Charlotte Rescue Mission, which provides a free, long-term Christian recovery program for men and women addicted to drugs and alcohol.