Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Day 18: Forgiveness

"Then Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times. " 
-Matthew 18:21-22

Jesus is pretty direct in today's Gospel: I have to forgive the jerks, because I have been a jerk, I am a jerk, and I will be a jerk. I have to forgive the people who arrive an hour late for dinner. I have to forgive the people that won’t make the effort to communicate with me. I have to forgive the lady at the market who will not give me the right price because I am American. I have to forgive them. For their sake, right? For Jesus, right?

I teach once a week at a high school where I am the only female teacher, in addition to being the only white teacher. My first class of the day with 18 seventeen-year-old boys can be a little… rambunctious. During my first few weeks at the school, by the time I walked into my second class, I was already mad at them before they even had the chance to make their first out-of-turn remark. I wasn’t being an effective teacher and my frustration was not helping anyone. I was not enjoying my time with these students and started to dread Tuesday mornings.  Forgiveness here, was actually for me.

When I manage to forgive, and truly forgive, I am letting it go. I am letting go of the anger, frustration, of the need to scream and whine and yell and opening myself up to the more productive moods of problem solving and reconciliation. God can deal with the bad emotions. As the Buddha put it, “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” In taking these negative emotions from us, God opens us up to feel so much more, to experience so much more, and to love so much more. Forgiveness isn’t just for everyone else: it is for you.

Julie Burd is 23 and from the Diocese of Pennsylvania. When not running away 
from charging goats, she teaches English at the only BSN 
nursing program in Haiti and works at a local hospital. 

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