Recently, I had a very humbling experience of getting upset with my neighbor. I will not go into details here, except to say that though I had some reason to be upset, my approach was all wrong. I stormed over there and really gave her a piece of my mind. And suddenly, in the heat of the moment, it suddenly hit me the way I was behaving. "What am I doing???" I thought to myself.
I apologized profusely and my neighbor was good enough to let it go. Later, I wrote another letter of apology and delivered it to her mailbox before we left on our family vacation. At least I had a place to escape to!
I was mortified that I could act in such a way, and deeply humbled. I had fallen into a class of people that I had unconsciously labeled "One of them." One of "those people", the kind that loses their temper with anyone, the kind that talks down and condescends, the one that thinks they are better than everyone else. Me, a Christian, a good Catholic. This is how I normally would think of myself, if at all. And yet, I had stooped down to a level I couldn't believe existed within myself.
It took me a few days to get over this deep embarrassment. But God is so good and forgiving. While I come to Him, abashed and ashamed, embarrassed and babbling that I didn't know that I could ever behave in such a way, He says, "It's ok, Becky. I knew."
Whenever we think we are making some good success, God gives a little spiritual poke to let us know: "Don't celebrate yet. You've still got a lot of work to do!"
It is a hard thing to come to terms with, that we aren't perfect. It is a harder thing to realize that unconsciously, we thought we were.
Yes, we are "one of them." We are sinners and offenders, we are short on patience and love. We put ourselves before others without even realizing it. We are completely absorbed in self-love and obsessed with ourselves. Thank God for His spiritual pokes. Thank God He points out our flaws. It is spiritually humbling, but we are so much better for it.
And when someone has offended us, someone has fallen down, it is our job to lift them up again. God didn't place us there to remind them of their offenses, to reiterate what doesn't need reiterating. He has placed us there to lift them back up, to help them be on their way, lest they completely give up on themselves out of embarrassment and pride.
We sin, we repent, we move on. It has to be in that order. I tell my kids that this is what Confession is. Literally a spiritual conveyer belt that forces you to keep going. "Go and sin no more." It is a relief to know that it ok to "go" and move on.
So if someone has offended you and repents, someone asks for your forgiveness, give it to them. Or God will remind you what it feels like to be the offender and not know the mercy of forgiveness.