Human beings are such that life togeth­er” always involves them in hurt­ing one anoth­er in some way. Most peo­ple feel that some­how this is unusu­al, but it is sim­ply true. To avoid this fact of life peo­ple will remain super­fi­cial with every­one, run to anoth­er church at the first sig­nal of pain, or clam up into a tight lit­tle shell that doesn’t know how to cry…or laugh. Church­es will nev­er progress until we move beyond the fear of being hurt.

Some peo­ple feel that if they could just be good enough that they won’t hurt peo­ple. Yet in this world your very good­ness will hurt peo­ple. Wit­ness Jesus. You can­not avoid it — if you want life be pre­pared to hurt and be hurt. 

In this regard you need to under­stand that it is nor­mal for you to be hurt. It is OK to be hurt. 

Because peo­ple do not believe this, they devel­op the great stone face — the stiff upper lip. Out­ward­ly they appear to be in com­plete con­trol, ful­ly able to han­dle all con­tin­gen­cies. They do not hurt, not them. They just devel­op ulcers, have heart attacks and die of can­cer. Please believe me, it is nor­mal for you to, be hurt. 

One more thing is impor­tant to know: spir­i­tu­al per­sons are espe­cial­ly hurt and hurt­ful. The stiff upper lip is not a sign of spir­i­tu­al­i­ty. Jesus hurt…hurt deeply. The great stone face does not depict God­li­ness, but pride. 


For­give­ness is essen­tial in a com­mu­ni­ty of hurt and hurt­ful per­sons. In expe­ri­enc­ing for­give­ness it is impor­tant to under­stand what it is not. Four things are often mis­tak­en for forgiveness. 

ONE: Pre­tend­ing that it doesn’t mat­ter. ‘‘Oh, that’s all right; it real­ly didn’t hurt me any way!” That is not for­give­ness, it is lying. • The truth is that these things mat­ter a great deal and it does not help to avoid the issue. 

TWO: A ceas­ing to hurt. Some think that if they con­tin­ue to hurt that they have not for­giv­en. That is just not true. Hurt­ing is not evil. You may hurt for a very long time to come. For­give­ness does not mean that you will stop hurt­ing.

THREE: For­get­ting. Many would make us believe that in order to for­give we must for­get. But this is not the case. You will remem­ber; the dif­fer­ence will be that you will no longer need or desire to use it against them. The mem­o­ry remains, the vin­dic­tive­ness lea ves. 

FOUR: Pre­tend­ing the rela­tion­ship is just the same as before the offense. The rela­tion­ship will nev­er be the same again. You might just as well make peace with that fact. By the grace of God it may be a hun­dred times bet­ter but it will nev­er be the same. 

The Rule of Christ 

Jesus set forth the way by which gen­uine for­give­ness can come into the com­mu­ni­ty with­out destroy­ing it. This prin­ci­ple is giv­en to us in Matthew 18:15 – 22

First we go direct­ly to the offend­ed or offend­ing par­ty. But we can’t seem to do this. Why? Well, we play a lit­tle game by say­ing, I don’t want to hurt their feel­ings, so out of love I won’t speak to them. Noth­ing real­ly hap­pened any way.” That is a lie. Love and lies do not mix. Do not go to oth­ers to talk about the offense — go direct­ly to the offend­ed or offend­ing par­ty. And remem­ber the pur­pose of going to them is not to lay them out, but to win a broth­er or sis­ter. Nine­ty-five per­cent of the time the mat­ter is set­tled there. 

If this does not set­tle the mat­ter, take two or three dis­ci­ples with you who can be trust­ed and who are known for their dis­cern­ment and sym­pa­thy. When done in love, there is hard­ly a case where the sit­u­a­tion is not resolved. 

If the mat­ter is still not resolved, then bring it to the entire com­mu­ni­ty. Now you will nev­er be able to believe that this is a good thing until you under­stand that Jesus is refer­ring to a kind of com­mu­ni­ty which is sim­ply not found in church­es today. Jesus is talk­ing about a kind of com­mu­ni­ty based on a deep sense of trust. For the most part church peo­ple are afraid of each oth­er. If one looks cross-eyed at anoth­er he may not be back for a month. And he may start look­ing for anoth­er church. 

One final word: Matthew 18:18 is still talk­ing about for­give­ness. The bonds that we are to be empow­ered to lib­er­ate are the bonds of an unfor­giv­ing spirit. 

Pub­lished in Quak­er Life (Octo­ber 1974).

Originally published September 1974

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