Come Clean

Today at dinner among my fellow volleyball coaches, an interesting subject came up that was of interest to me. We were talking about quirks, and whether we like to see them in others. I know that as someone who tends to have quirks that are fairly obvious and that sometimes cause me a great deal of social awkwardness as well as distress, I tend to feel better when I see the quirks of other people because then I know it’s a fair trade. I mean, because I know I am in need of a fair amount of mercy and graciousness from others, I do my best to be a merciful and gracious person to others, for I know what it is like to be a soul in torment, and I dislike making anyone else suffer if I can possibly avoid it. I agonize when I hear that I have said or written words that others have grieved and suffered or been embarrassed over, even if I know that what has been said cannot be unsaid and what has been done cannot be undone, as much as we might wish that was the case.

Today in the sermon, our pastor made his second reference (at least that I can remember) to a quotation from Laura Schlessinger that while Christians believe in salvation through grace that Jews believe in salvation earned through works. Yet the scriptures, and not just the “New Testament” either, are very clear that the only people who can be saved are those to whom God imputes no sin, because we all have plenty on our own. One cannot read the psalms or the prophets very long without understanding that point perfectly clearly if one has the eyes to see what is there. A mentality that salvation can be earned by works combined with an awareness that our works are not always good always carries with it the danger that we will attempt to try to do penance for our sins by doing good works to cancel out bad works, believing that there is something that we can do to undo the damage that we have committed, rather than seek the mercy and forgiveness of others where it may be found.

There are people in my life who have hurt me a great deal, and I am sure that despite my best efforts I have brought a fair amount of distress and suffering to others. As someone who for a variety of personal reasons puts a great deal (perhaps too much) of my thoughts and feelings in public sight, with all the complications it has for those who are whether willingly or unwillingly in my life, there are certain struggles that one faces to be honest about myself and my perspective while seeking to be understanding of the sensitivities of others who are very different from me and a great deal more private. I am willing to come clean, especially in private, and seek to either explain myself or ask for forgiveness when I have caused offense to others, something I greatly dislike. As someone who is painfully aware that what I say is not always understood as I intend it, and that there are plenty of people who see me and hear me with less than patient eyes [1] or sympathetic ears, the reality of offense and difficulty is omnipresent.

That said, when others have greatly hurt me, I too wish for them to come clean. I don’t wish for some sort of pageant of pardoning on my part [2], to make myself feel better. I do not wish to usurp God’s role as being the dispenser of eternal forgiveness. No, my wish is rather a more prosaic one. I wish for others to come clean because I want to see good feelings restored, on a basis of honesty and openness, whether I am forgiving or being forgiven or (more commonly) both. I know what it is like, indeed I could not help but know, what it is like to be a soul in distress, in anxiety, and in torment. To the greatest extent possible I wish neither to desire vengeance or hostility to others–I would rather like them to be my friends if it was at all possible. I do not wish others to attempt to justify their own wicked feelings and behavior towards me by painting me as a villain. Nor do I wish for others to feel as I do, awkwardly hoping for a better future but unsure of how it can be done, just trying to do the best possible given the intense constraints of my character and personality. Seeking peace and graciousness and good feelings for myself, how could I wish to deny them to others who long and suffer just as I do?

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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2 Responses to Come Clean

  1. This is a very important blog. Many times I am completely unaware that I have caused a problem or an offense to others, and I must depend on their coming to me about it in order for reconciliation to occur. It is only if or when I sense a change in the relationship that I can go to him or her and ask if I’ve done or said anything amiss–and I must trust that what the person tells me is the truth. It would be terribly un-Christian to label any action or words as wicked or hateful–even if they appear that way–because that, of itself, is judging the other person’s motive. We are not qualified to do that. Something completely different might be driving the what-seems-to-be aberrant behavior. If we know that the situation is thorny and not reconcilable at this time, we simply must turn it over to God and keep our heart open and pure about the other person.

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