Forgiveness is God’s invention for coming to terms with a world in which,
despite their best intentions, people are unfair to each other and hurt each other deeply
Lewis Smedes

In case you hadn’t noticed, the world is full of people in conflict. Our human lives are filled with misunderstandings, disagreements, grudges, hostilities, and injuries real and perceived. Couples get divorced due to irreconcilable differences, siblings become estranged from each other, and work associates grow to loathe one another.

For all our modern technological prowess and scientific know-how, we humans are still a far cry from solving the challenges of all our personal, communal, tribal, national, and international hostilities. We can send probes to Mars and observe gravitational waves but can’t seem to put a dent in human discord.

As Christians, I believe that within the story of Scripture and the life and teachings of our Lord are found great resources to help us become difference makers in our conflicted world. What can we do?

First, we must cultivate the virtue of humility. Recognizing our fundamental reliance upon God for every good thing puts us in a grateful frame of mind. Social scientists have found that humble people view others with more generous eyes and are more willing to see their own flaws than the rest of us. Humble people are more willing to admit and work on their own weaknesses and shortcomings. Further, humility enables us to be less preoccupied and more empathetic toward others. Humble people are less susceptible to confirmation bias, that very human quality in which we gravitate toward evidence and arguments that confirm what we already believe rather than considering other views.

Second, we have to practice forgiveness. Every human relationship is characterized by errors of judgment, failures in being considerate, hurtful oversights, misunderstandings, and wounding words. Because of this, Anne Lamott has observed, “Earth is forgiveness school.” The only way we can survive in relationships is either to be perfect (good luck!) or to get better at forgiving. When we practice humility, we make it much easier for others to forgive us. Forgiveness is so difficult for us because it requires us to work through real hurt, anger, and even hatred caused by another. Real forgiveness requires time, hard work, and painful honesty. No wonder we avoid it. But we eventually must seek to forgive. As the saying goes, “Forgiveness sets the prisoner free and that prisoner is you.”

We live in a world of conflict. However, our wise and gracious Lord has provided us with virtues and practices that can help us work through our conflicts and even enjoy reconciliation with one another. May God grant us the grace to cultivate humility and practice forgiveness wherever we can.

Andy Wall
Author: Andy Wall