I once read an article telling about two friends who were walking through the desert, talking. They got into an argument, and one friend slapped the other in the face. The one who got slapped was hurt, but without saying anything he wrote in the sand, “Today my best friend slapped me in the face.”
They walked on until they came to an oasis where they stopped for water. The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mire, fell in and started to drown. His friend, who had slapped him earlier, now saved his life. That evening, he wrote on a stone, “Today my best friend saved my life.”
The friend asked him, “After I hurt you, you wrote in the sand, and now you write on a stone. Why?” The friend who did the writing replied, “When someone hurts us, we should write it in sand, where the winds of forgiveness can erase it away. But, when someone does something good for us, we must engrave it in stone, where it will be long remembered.”
What a great lesson! Too often we tend to keep score and hold grudges. If someone wrongs us in some way, we remember, we never forget! Now it’s not just a matter of the incident being filed away somewhere in the memory banks of our mind, it’s the idea that we remember whatever happened and hold it against the perpetrator for life. We never really get past it. Obviously, our relationship with that individual is affected forever thereafter.
When Peter was looking for a limit to place on the number of times one should forgive his brother for sinning against him, Jesus basically told him that there is no limit, as long as the brother sincerely repents and tries to change (Matt. 18:21-22). It is a blessing to be able to forgive and let go of an offense committed against you. And, it is a sign of spiritual maturity. The person who continues to harbor ill feelings against another, even after that person has sought to make it right, does more harm to himself in the long run than he does to the one he refuses to forgive. In fact, he could be doing himself eternal harm.
Each of us makes mistakes. Each of us offends, hurts and does harm to others from time to time. We need their grace in forgiving us, and we need to be gracious toward those who wrong us but afterward seek our forgiveness. There are enough hurts in life. If we dwell on them, we ourselves will be hurting more than is necessary. Let’s focus on the good things we experience, and in a special way let’s focus on the good deeds others do for us. We will find our lives richer and happier for it.
We also need to remember God’s example toward us. If not for His abundant willingness to forgive us on a repeated basis, none of us would have any hope for eternity (Rom. 5:6-10; 1 Jn. 1:8-9). Making things better around us begins with us. Making relationships with others better begins with our attitudes about those relationships. Let’s make it a point to try, wherever possible, to keep records of the sins committed against us written in the sand. Let’s look for opportunities to write on stones the blessings others have bestowed upon us. Our lives will be better for the effort…
Gary L. Hutchens