Matthew 6:14-15: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
I am constantly amazed by how easy it is to hate someone because they have disrespected you, or shown you some level of unkindness.
But…as the saying goes, until you have walked a mile in someone else’s shoes, do not judge them. You do not know what they’ve had to endure in their life’s journey.
Perhaps you’ve encountered a family member, friend, colleague, or supervisor who’s constantly undermining and verbally attacking you, even though such attacks are often unprovoked.
You might be an individual who is, by nature, slow to anger and quick to forgive. Maybe you are good at removing yourself from offensive people without the need to tell them off for their bad behaviour.
Alternatively, you could be the extreme opposite – a person who is capable of inflicting wounds with your razor-sharp words, while letting someone know that they are disgusting and their behaviour is much worse.
I have had the terrible misfortune of experiencing such an individual who was, in my perception, the worst human being I have ever interacted with, to date. When dealing with mean and offensive people, my instinct is to distance myself, simply because it is important for me not to be exposed to, or consumed by, their toxic behaviour.
In this situation, I had to deal with the individual all day, every day.
In a matter of days, I felt myself lose respect for this person. I also felt this deep loathing for her, seeping into my heart and controlling my thoughts and feelings. For those who really know me, it is not in my nature to hate, or invest energy in negative feelings or behaviour. I value my soul and the safety of my soul too much, to fall prey to the evil that often controls mankind. But…amidst all my pain and resentment, something happened.
I started to notice some things about her behaviour. She was very quick to ask questions and get to know things about the people around her, but quite reluctant to share her own information. In bits and pieces, I started to learn things about her. And I also started to understand her behaviour.
I picked up on the fact that she came from a highly dysfunctional family, much as they enjoyed a wealthy and comfortable life. She appeared to have been heavily criticized, and I did not believe that at any point in her life, anyone had ever told her that they loved her, given her a genuine hug, or showed her any form of kindness.
I also picked up on the fact that she was raised in an environment where she was controlled, hence her need to always control others and crush them under her foot. Her reaction was to push everyone away, and nurse the worst kind of anger, bitterness, and envy, such that these became the beacons that guided her entire life. The result: a devastatingly insecure, hurt, mean, bitter, and lonely individual who blamed the world for her unhappiness.
When I was first getting to know her…I viewed her from a lens where I saw nothing but ugliness. Could I be blamed for this? Probably not. After all, when someone is persistent in their persecution of you, all you see is their darkness.
But by the time I was moving on from that environment…I knew that I was being charged with the responsibility to pray for this woman. And it would be easier for me to do so, since I would no longer be around her, serving as her punching bag. I was not at peace with what I KNEW the rest of her life would be. One where she will remain lonely, bitter, angry, and face death alone with not one person by her side who genuinely loves her and cares for her.
While I still didn’t fully understand her story, I chose to “walk a mile” in her shoes. And just as I pray for forgiveness for my own transgressions, I continue to lift her in prayer.
Linda Githiora is based in Columbus, OH. She has an education in Psychology and Public Administration, and a strong passion for spiritual faith, education, positive social change, and transformational leadership.