Letting go of a personal injustice is not easy. But often it is necessary.
By letting it go, I do NOT mean pretending it never happened or that it's OK that it happened. Let me be clear. IT'S NOT OK. We can and SHOULD allow ourselves time to cycle through the grieving process. That means we come face-to-face with the hurt, the grief, and the anger. Tears and Psalms provide godly outlets for our intense, difficult emotions. But even when we allow ourselves to face the pain, it doesn't remove the reality of the unresolved injustice and it doesn't remove the upside-downness of the world. It often doesn't remove the dispenser of injustice from our sphere of life and we still have to deal with them. So what do we do with the remaining emotions and sense of wrong?
I suggested in the previous post that when we choose to let go of an injustice, we put ourselves in danger of becoming cynical or bitter and that the antidote to letting these take root in our hearts, is humility. Since our natures are not inclined toward humility, it has to be planted, watered, and cultivated. I believe the following attitudes and actions work as a corrective to bitterness and prepare the soil for the fruit of humility to grow. (In the ensuing "sermon" I speak in the first person because I need to hear this as much as anyone, and because I want to avoid sounding "preachy" to "you people out there." I certainly don't want my very delicate friends, whose situations prompted this series, to feel like I'm kicking them while they're down!)
(1) Ditch the Pride. Chances are, if I am honest with myself, underneath my indignance at the injustice perpetrated against me, lies a distinct sense that "I didn't deserve this" or "I deserved better." Really? Do I seriously want what I deserve in life? It doesn't take deep mining to uncover times when I didn't get what I really deserved...or I got much better than I deserved. I probably didn't complain to God, myself, or others about those times. And even in the current circumstance, what exactly do I think I do or don't deserve? Am I thinking more highly of myself than I ought? Is there some part here that I need to own? Did I contribute to the circumstance? Whether I answer in the negative or affirmative, chances are I can easily uncover some pride and indignation behind the pain. I should also be perpetually cognizant of this: I MIGHT BE WRONG. Perhaps my own vision is distorted and things are not really as they seem. Perhaps the injustice is insignificant or non-existent but MY perspective is skewed by my closeness to the situation. Humility recognizes that I don't really want justice for myself all the time, I don't always dispense justice to others, and I've been wrong before...perhaps I'm wrong again.
(2) Resign myself. I need to stop kicking so hard against the reality of living in a fallen, cursed world. I need to correct my expectations and accept the truth of brokenness. Remembering times when I was actually (and maybe unintentionally) the perpetrator of an injustice might allow me to assign motives of ignorance or misunderstanding to my persecutors as well, rather than assuming evil intent. This might lead me to pray, "Father, forgive them, for they don't understand what they're doing," instead of praying they get what they have coming. I may simply need to resign myself to the inequities. Humility accepts the frailty of this life and of all its creatures.
(3) Submit myself. Submit to this...even this...as the will of the Lord for my sanctification. He is training me. Remember, the Creator uses knife and fire to remove the junk and bring forth a glorious vessel fit for his service. Injustice is painful. But it creates an opportunity to learn to believe...really BELIEVE...that everything is needful that he sends and nothing can be needful that he withholds. He is refining me. Why jump out of the furnace and be satisfied with who I am? Do I trust his hand to purify me? Do I really believe I know what's best for me better than he does? Humility acknowledges and acquiesces to HIS good work, both in me as well as in the one who has dispensed the injustice.
(4) Remember. When I remember grave injustices that have been, and are even now being suffered by others...injustices that dwarf mine...it changes my perspective. A very painful and unjust firing from a job might pale in comparison to losing my child's life to a drunk driver, or losing use of my limbs after a negligent medical misdiagnosis, or being born deaf and blind, or watching my fellow Christians beheaded for their profession of faith. Exposing myself to the lives of saints like Olaudah Equiano, Joni Eareckson Tada, Nick Vujicic, or Helen Keller, can radically shift my perspective on how to graciously endure suffering that stems from injustice. It doesn't remove the pain or diminish the wrongness of my own situation, but it can definitely provide context in which to see my situation differently. Humility laments my own lack of faith and extracts strength from the example of others.
(5) Hope. Hold onto the crucial truth that one day all things...ALL THINGS...will be set right. Every wrong and injustice that I have perpetrated or absorbed, will be set to rights. Wait with expectancy for that day while, here and now, entrusting myself to the One who judges righteously. His judgements are true and trustworthy. Humility waits with hope for him to act.
(6) Pray. Pray for the good of those who despitefully use me. Pray that their eyes would be opened to their errors, and their motives would be purified. For the blatantly evil, pray those imprecatory Psalms, but for a brother who is blind to his own injustice, pray for his good...that is to say, for understanding, repentance, and wisdom. Humility desires not only my own good, but the good of my enemy.
(7) Bless. Rather than fume and rant against those who have done me wrong, I ought to bless them. Rather than withdraw my countenance completely, I ought to bestow mercy. They may not recognize my actions as merciful because they probably believe they haven't wronged me. They may misinterpret my motives. Bless them anyway. Don't be false, but say a true, kind word. Send a word of encouragement. Do an act of service. Maybe it's as simple as looking them in the eye and speaking to them. Humility refuses to ignore or dispense contempt, and chooses instead to bless.
Is this some Pie-in-the-Sky, Rose-Colored-Glasses nonsense I'm purporting? I mean, seriously. Is all of this really necessary? Can't I just "Fix-o-dent and forget it"? Can't I demand that things be set right NOW...that the injustice be undone? What's this talk of waiting, hoping, praying, trusting, blah, blah, blah. Don't I have a right to truth and equity?
Next time I'll touch briefly on the reason I think this is the proper path to follow when dealing with injustice, and what we can expect to find along the way and at the end of the journey.