All of us have areas in our lives where we get in God’s way. This is most evident in relation to the sins we struggle with on a daily basis. Sin is not a private matter. Our sins impact not only our own soul, but the people around us, whether we realize this truth or not. Many of us have experienced broken or painful relationships. Those relationships may be with family members, friends, co-workers, or other people we’ve known at some point or another. The deepest hurts can come from wounds picked up in childhood that continue to cause pain well into adulthood. Spouses can know exactly where to hurt one another in moments of anger and weakness. The point is: Sin, pain, and our own weaknesses, and the weaknesses of others can leave a deep mark on us.
When someone hurts us, our immediate impulse is to either return in kind or cut ties with that individual. At times the only solution is to walk away, but often we allow our own weakness to get in the way of God’s working. We can allow our pride to blind us to the need to forgive another person. Our pride can keep us from acting in accordance with God’s will. We oftentimes make situations much worse because we choose to cling to our own anger. It’s much better to lick our wounds, than enter into a place of vulnerability and seek reconciliation. This situation arises in loving homes and broken homes. Opportunities to love despite our own weaknesses and the weaknesses of others abound. There are many times when we are in the way of God’s working in our own lives and the lives of others.
Human beings are complicated.
Every single person is made imago Dei and is greatly loved by God. This is a universal truth, but we all come from different backgrounds, cultures, and experiences. This means that how I respond in a situation may be completely different from how you respond in a situation. Many of us walk around with invisible injuries, traumas, abandonment, histories of abuse, poverty, criminal background, etc. Our experiences make us different from one another. When we encounter another person, and develop a relationship with that person, we may not fully understand their motives or responses. In a time of trial or disagreement, misunderstandings can compile and run the risk of destroying that relationship. We must remember that our friends, family members, co-workers, acquaintances, or brothers and sisters in Christ do not necessarily do things the same way we would; even when they do things that are objectively wrong or immoral. Things that seem astonishingly obvious to us, may not be obvious to another person, especially if they do not know Christ. God asks us to be merciful in these situations, to forgive, and to love. It doesn’t mean the behavior is right, but if we cling to anger, bitterness, and our own pride we may run the risk of getting in the way of the good God is doing in that person’s life and our own.
Assumptions and perceptions can be destructive.
Making assumptions about other people is highly destructive. This is a great injustice because we do not see people as they are, but rather, as we assume them to be or based on our perceptions. We can assume because a person has a difficult or sinful history that they are incapable of change and then we end up discarding people. We must ask for and allow God to give us the patience and grace to come to know other people as they truly are and not base each person on our own assumptions. Remember, our backgrounds and experiences vary and so our preconceived notions oftentimes are flat wrong. We also become judgmental when we assume another person is X, Y, or Z. This can be enflamed by perceived or experienced injustice at the hands of that person. Instead, we must try to see things from that person’s point of view. This does not negate any wrong-doing, but it does make us more open to learning, loving, and forgiving other people.
Listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
There are many times in my life when I have clearly known that I am being led by the Holy Spirit to act in a certain manner. When my husband and I have a disagreement and I’d rather stay angry and cling to my pride, I hear the still small voice tell me to apologize and seek reconciliation. This doesn’t mean I have mastered listening. At times, there have been misunderstandings between one of my close friends and me and I’ve made a lot of nasty assumptions, which more-often-than-not proved to be false. In order to mend those relationships, I had to allow myself to be both humble in accepting that I was wrong and vulnerable in choosing to reach out to the other person. We must be willing to set aside our sinful weakness and listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. He is constantly working and by conforming ourselves to Him, we learn to say “yes” as Our Heavenly mother did at the Annunciation.
We are all weak.
We must also accept that some relationships are a long work in progress–God never stops working—or that people are where they are and we cannot change them. This doesn’t get us off of the hook, however. We must make a concerted effort to reach out to those people in our lives who hurt us, as well as those who we have hurt. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said, “God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.” We must overcome our own weakness and fear.
It’s vital to remember that every single one of us has hurt someone we love. Our sin hurts others and we are all weak. It is God’s grace that allows us to overcome those inclinations, not our own power. In seeing our own weakness, we can come to be merciful and patient with the weaknesses of others. We truly become stronger when we choose to cooperate with God’s plan and allow Him to help us overcome our weakness so that we can reach out to others in love, mercy, and forgiveness. We must stop getting in the way and allow ourselves to be conduits of God’s grace and love.