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Dean Whitbread 2013

Dean Whitbread 2020

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Written on June 5, 2009, and categorized as Living.
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“How did I come to be doing this?” “What was that all about?” – I regularly ask myself these obvious questions, especially after a period of continuing along a path which seems to be completely pointless. How can I possibly have believed that this was a good idea? Me, Mr Intelligent, possessed of such insight, wit and clarity?

Pointless

As everybody knows, people can indeed be despicable to one another, and frequently they cause harm via carelessess or deliberate brutality. But, nota bene, in deed – actions speaking loud. Do not buried thoughts of recrimination occupy the same shelf in the moral cupboard of wrongs? Thoughts are real, and bitterness can creep into the mind like mould into a food jar, spoiling everything inside.

I have a good memory, I am a loyal friend, this much I know, and this should make me a forgiving person. But somewhere along the line, in creeps fossilisation, like hardening of the mental arteries. Yes, part of me can become a dinosaur. Even though I have cleaned up my act in many ways, I can be less forgiving, more punitive and more unpleasant than the people whose values I most dislike. I don’t have the best of parental examples, but they have moved on, so isn’t about time that I did?

So, this is one of my challenges, and thus I navigate the sins against me with variable success. Sometimes lack of consideration and respect can become unerasable marks. It is as though I don’t have enough self-respect to lose any, which isn’t true, but despite this, I sometimes act to guard my hermetically-sealed room of sacred personal values, and I shut myself off from further damage with considerable force.

Some weeks ago, I was beside myself with righteous anger for an entire month, when I felt that an error of judgement had insulted me and mine. What they did was stupid and wrong. In response, I was expected to forgive, but I couldn’t. Rather, I elevated the wrong to an inassailable position with clever demonstrations of adequate moral behaviour, making it clear that without rapid and full apology, I no longer counted these foolish people as my friends. No matter that these are good people who made a mistake. I saw only my own disrespected self and carried my wounded ego like a shield.

One of the reasons I love my girlfriend is that she has the ability to make me fundamentally re-think my approach to the way I live my life. Or is it simply that because I love her, I am more open to her opinions? Either way, she influences me and I don’t always like it. In fact, being stubborn and self-opinionated, it requires something as powerful as love to rock my world and open it up to other possibilities. I don’t mean the possibility of living in Brighton, or buying and selling Palestinian olive oil, or being more considerate about the loudness of the TV. I mean fundamentals, such as whether or not I am sufficiently forgiving enough in life.

She didn’t push, but we couldn’t clear up the matter, which was very unsatisfactory. We started wondering what we were doing together. It was unthinkable that I could be wrong. I had been wronged!

Realising my moral compass had failed me, I reached for the Bible and read Luke 15:32 – the prodigal son. The moral of the story is forgiveness. The father celebrates the return of the bad son to the fold, making the dutiful son confused and angry.

I was actually the good son – so why was I confused and angry?

I kept reading, until I go to Luke 17:3

17:3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.

17:4 And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.

I really had to think. Seeing what I was doing made me very sad indeed. My behaviour went totally against my own codes of conduct. I was the worst kind of hypocrite. I realised I had some serious apologising to do.

At Matthew’s commemoration service yesterday, I was moved by many of the words of tribute and recollection spoken by family, friends and his lover Andrew. At the end of this largely secular event, the reverend lead us in the Lord’s prayer. I didn’t want to mumble it, so I closed my eyes and thought it through.

“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us…”

The ancient language chimed loud in my dinosaur mind. Whatever possessed me lost some of its grip. An egg hatched. Something emerged with feathers and wings that might one day fly and sing.

We left the chapel and stood blinking in the light, drying our eyes.

Matthew Lewis

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