I’ve been pondering a lot lately about the principles of forgiveness and unconditional love. How does one unconditionally love someone you cannot trust? How does one forgive someone who very well may betray, deceive or hurt you again?
I had the privilege of previewing an excellent book before it went to print. Victoria Fielding’s “A Piece of Time” gave me a critical puzzle piece along my path to more fully understanding the principles of forgiveness and unconditional love.
At one point in the story, the main character summarizes,
“There were many dancers, many styles of dances, with innumerable dances being performed simultaneously on the stage of life. And who was to say that one dancer was any better than another? No longer did I think it was just my stage. It was everyone’s stage, and we were all just inexperienced dancers bumping up against each other, and—for the most part—trying to get our steps down, and trying to do our best. That was all. And that was enough.”
This morning as I was pondering on the subject further, it occurred to me that I’ve been taking things very personally. When someone makes a mistake, blows a fuse, or does something that makes my life difficult, I’ve been taking it personally. I’ve been acting as if I’m the main character on the stage, and it’s all about me and how other people treat me. I’ve been betrayed. I’ve been deceived. I’ve been used or treated like dirt.
How am I supposed to keep loving someone who may betray me again, may deceive me again, or may use me again? How am I supposed to unconditionally love those people?
But what if Victoria Fielding is right? What if we’re all dancers, performing simultaneously on the stage of life and all those things I perceive as “about me” aren’t personal at all! What if it’s other people bumping up against me as they try to play their roles in life? We’re all imperfect and human. Rarely is someone else’s mistake all about us.
I call a child for dinner and he yells at me rudely. I can take that personally. I could think, “How disrespectful! How rude! He doesn’t love me at all. How ungrateful!” Or I could realize this child was acting out of character and there must be more to the story. Sure enough, I later learn that he was mad about something else and my calling him three times for dinner was the last straw. It had nothing to do with me.
Someone once said, “No man knows my history.” We don’t know each other’s histories. We don’t know the string of incidents, choices, and beliefs that led someone to a particular act. Perhaps he was flailing his arms dancing on the stage of life and smacked you upside the head because you were the closest person around.
Have you ever noticed on crime dramas like “Criminal Minds” it’s rarely that the murderer simply despised the victim? There’s always this string of events, circumstances, choices and the perpetrator’s view of life that led to the crime. By the time the FBI team gets to the bottom of it, we see the perpetrator’s twisted view of reality caused by a myriad of factors that made the person snap.
Of all people who could take betrayal, deceit, and even murder personally, it would be Jesus Christ. But there’s one thing about Jesus — which I believe enables Him to love each of us unconditionally no matter what we do — and that is He doesn’t take our actions personally. Even though our actions caused Him pain, He still prayed on the cross, “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do.” What if he wasn’t only talking about the soldiers driving the nails?
Jesus knew it wasn’t personal. And even if it felt very personal, He never took it personally. He knew that we all have a history, and we’re all imperfect dancers on a stage “for the most part—trying to get our steps down, and trying to do our best.”
That’s why if we’ll come to Him, and give Him not only our sins, but also all the times we’ve felt offended, betrayed, deceived, or injured, He can take those things and replace them with love — unconditional love that never ends. He will “bind up the broken hearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and open up the prison to those who are bound.” (Isaiah 61:1-2)
Will you join me in shifting perspectives? Can we stop taking other people’s actions personally? Can we choose to believe that, “we are all just inexperienced dancers bumping up against each other, and—for the most part—trying to get our steps down, and trying to do our best?”