A defining characteristic of living in a fallen world is dealing with people who have disappointed you. When we are around people who have disappointed us in one way or the other, a myriad of emotions are sent into frenzy by our brain. Particularly if these are people we also happen to love or once loved. We see the object of our disappointment, the emotional dam breaks loose and we are suddenly flooded by a cacophony thoughts and feelings. We have no control over these impulses. What we can control is what we do with them. For this we need a plan.
For me, there are but three options for dealing with unavoidable people who have disappointed you (or continue to disappoint you).
1) We can declare them pariahs, do our very best to avoid them and emotionally exercise them from our lives. This is clearly an option and in some cases (like abuse), it may be the right option.
2) We can be polite to them but choose not to engage beyond that point. This is really not a bad strategy if you are really hurting but it is a temporary one. This strategy is best used in the immediate aftermath of disappointment, when we have not yet sorted out our own feelings, must less determined how we will engage or not engage the person who has hurt us.
3) We can forgive them and choose to renegotiate the relationship. Forgiveness does not let the person who hurt you off the hook, it lets you off the hook of being vengeful and bitter toward them. On the other hand we can’t simply act like nothing ever happened. It did. The relationship is not the same. An eventual conversation to negotiate the relationship on the other side of disappointment is necessary but don’t have it until you are ready. The right conversation held before you are emotionally ready to have it, is always the wrong conversation.
Forgiveness is not an easy option, but it is the only Christian one. Now as to whether that person continues to be a part of your life is another decision entirely. You don’t have to get things all figured out, but a determination to get things headed in the right direction is a win no matter how you slice it.
And if you are wondering how you can forgive those who have sinned against you, keep in mind that God has forgiven your sins against Him.
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop, A Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church, has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997.