Sinful Victims

4:34 PM

The problem with reconciliation in this world is that rarely do situations involve only one offender, one sinner. Certainly genuine victims exist who did absolutely nothing to provoke their offenders and did nothing wrong before, during, or after the offense.

In most cases, however, both parties end up perpetrators and victims at the same time: an insensitive joke prompts a hateful response; indifference fuels anger; and the refusal to forgive taints the former innocence of the offended. We are both victims and sinners, hurt and hurtful, broken and antagonistic.

This creates problems in reconciliation. How do you seek forgiveness and ask for an apology at the same time? Is there a way to say, "I was wrong to snap at you, but you greatly hurt me by your provoking criticism" without sounding insincere? The reality is that a simple "sorry" doesn't often fix things. Continually saying "sorry" for inappropriately handling criticism and hurtful words and actions sometimes seems to fuel the other person's wrong words and actions -- almost as if they know they can continually push you over and you'll come slinking back, the first to apologize and make up. At the same time, it's hypocritical to think we can get away with our little jabs and fits while being hurt by their little jabs and fits. We must apologize.

But that doesn't alleviate the hurt. That doesn't reconcile two people fully. That doesn't ultimately solve the problem. Indeed, doing the right thing and apologizing when you've sinned against some who's sinned against you often opens yourself back up to criticism and hurt all over again. Or even if your apologies do result in forgiveness and burying the hatchet, it can become draining to be the only one initiating the reconciliation, the only one trying to be the bigger person, the only one who cares about every sin, even the little ones.

Let's face it: it's hard. It's hard to be hurt and sinful at the same time. It's hard to be strong and bold in asking forgiveness while constantly dealing with the pain from the other person's sin. It's hard to be both guilty and innocent. It's just a mess.

If you don't struggle with this problem of feeling simultaneously hurt and hurtful, I think you should take a reality check. When there's a conflict, a spat, an angry exchange of words, it's often the fault of both people -- maybe to a lesser degree for one person, but guilt to share nonetheless.

Knowing this, we can redirect our attention and energy to the only person we can change: ourselves. We need to make sure we're not committing the same hurt that we accuse the other person of doing. We need to check our hearts for hypocrisy. (We're often most annoyed and hurt by the sins of others that most closely mirror our own pet sins.) We need to seek forgiveness from both God and man and take steps to make sure we don't commit that sin again. This prevents bitterness. This also gives us tools to better handle situations where there's a potential for us to sin in our hurt -- how to respond patiently, lovingly, and kindly to frustrated, angry, abrasive people.

There's a flip side to this sinful/innocent paradox. While it's true that our sin is real and needs to be dealt with, our hurt is real too. Our need for love is real. Our healing needs to take place just as urgently as our sin needs to be repented of. Healing doesn't come by bashing the other person or ignoring our sin, however. Healing comes by going directly to God -- to the source of love Himself. He wants to know our grievances just as much as He wants to hear us repent. He wants to comfort us just as much as He needs to discipline us. He knows the frustrating phenomenon of sinning because we're hurt, and He acknowledges the reality and the legitimacy of that hurt even though it took place in an ugly situation where we are partly (mostly?) to blame.

Get some grace from Him when you are wounded, regardless of how much you messed up. (And give equal portions of grace to your offenders!) Repent regardless of how much you hurt. These two actions heal your soul, strengthen your spirit, and lead to fullest sanctification.

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4 impressions

  1. your words are always both convicting yet comforting, a real treasure to read.

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  2. Thank you. I've never thought of God as some one to complain to. But who better to know just what I and they did wrong?

    -Daniel Abbott

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  3. Very insightful and mature post. I hope if this post was prompted by current events in your life that you were able to reconcile and forgive AND be forgiven AND be comforted.

    Adele

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  4. This is something I have struggled with a lot in the past year: wanting to confront someone that they hurt me, yet painfully aware of how my reactions to their sin leave me far from an innocent victim. It was very encouraging to read your thoughts about it; thank you for articulating so well what I can't fit into words.

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