“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain but it takes character and self control to be understanding and forgiving.” ~ Dale Carnegie …
There are times in my life where I fail to extend understanding and forgiveness to others. This is especially bothersome when it happens with someone I love deeply, like my wife or my children. Yet when I am able to be a man of character, and allow myself to walk a mile in their shoes, I often find that their perspectives are exactly aligned with my own. I like to refer to this as having grace, and that is exactly what Dale is talking about here, “putting ourselves in other’s shoes.”
Do I practice grace in my relationships? Many years ago, my wife and I were going to visit my brother and his family. It was snowing and the wind chill was around -10 degrees Fahrenheit, and I went out to start the car to get it warmed up for the children. But when I turned the key, it just would not turn over. I tried giving it gas and starting it for another 5 minutes, then decided to check the oil. It was low so I added some, spilling it on the engine because my hands were getting too cold. I then proceeded to try again… still nothing. At this point I was starting to run out of patience. Still, I hooked-up the trickle charger and let it fully charge while I continued to assess the vehicle. It was around this time my wife came outside and mentioned that it might be low on gas. Now I was rather irritated, as my fingers were frozen and I could not really move them, and I felt I had wasted my time. I remember using a few course words with her for running the vehicle to empty in the first place, and that she should go fill up the gas container at the gas station while I warmed up.
When she got back, I really felt bad about what I had said to her and the fact that I took my frustrations out on her. I never really took the time to try to understand her perspective or her feelings, let alone trying to forgive her for her momentary forgetfulness. I cannot begin to count the number of times I have failed to do something I have committed myself to doing, or the number of times I have simply forget about something as trivial as checking the oil or gas. Perhaps if I had taken Dale’s advice, I would have found understanding and forgiveness for the woman I love, and would have let her know that it is ok, I too make mistakes each day of my life.
As Patricia Briggs said, “When life doesn’t meet your expectations, it is important to take it with grace.” Do we offer grace, sympathy, understanding, forgiveness, and love to those we care about in life? Do we take the time to imagine being that person–having their job, working with their co-workers, dealing with children who get into trouble, recovering from loss or abuse, getting over a painful divorce, getting laid off of work? If we desire to truly help others in life, then we must be understanding and forgiving even to those who do not seem to need our understanding or forgiveness.
Offer understanding and forgiveness to others today.
Questions to consider:
Can you think of someone with whom you are at odds who may need your understanding? What would that understanding do for you?
Can you imagine yourself living through someone else’s situation for a day? For a week?
How often to you share forgiveness with those in your life?
For further thought:
“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer