Please excuse the plank in my eye…

I had an acquaintance I barely know who made very unsettling comments to me. This person sounded “nice,” as did the comments, but I know neither were intended to be taken as pleasant. I was meant to understand that I was being insulted, and affronted, and everyone else was supposed to understand the veiled ugliness of the exchange between us. Actually it was one-sided, I kept trying to understand where the anger was coming from, and was completely bewildered.

Later, a friend said, “You know, that person hates your guts, and has for years… and they became furious when I told them you didn’t know it, and that their energy was being wasted on you…”

I thought all that anger and resentment, aimed at me…creating a sickness within them, and affecting me not one bit. How very sad.

I wonder why people hold grudges. We allow ourselves to become angry, waiting for the opportunity, even planning, to strike out in order to hurt or cause pain to the object of our our dislike or displeasure. Allowing such anger or pettiness to go unchecked, or to poison us, my grandmother would call is allowing oneself “to stew in your own juices…”

Carrying hatred as part of your mental baggage, being so unwilling to forgive just because you need to justify your desire for revenge or to punish, is so sad and bespeaks a deep sickness within the “hater.” I would think it was like using poison for mouthwash — eventually you will swallow a little while you gargle in it.

Is it possible we will not allow ourselves to change and grow, choosing to remain mired in our own shortcomings and sin, and thereby locking everyone else in place with us?

I deeply believe fear creates hatred and anger, motivates us to lash out emotionally, perhaps physically and mentally as well…Perhaps we fear what others suggested about us was true. Maybe what they did, we misunderstood as a judgement against us, maybe we gave more weight or the wrong meaning to the situation than we should have, but it left us raw by touching a nerve — even if that nerve was not meant to be touched.

Let it go, the emotion tainted by sin and fear, hate, that would bring us down. Pray God that He lift us up out of the darkness of our ways, into the light of His way — that he will give to us the understanding that as we love we will grow in love, and as we forgive we will be forgiven. With a generous spirit, we will gain generosity beyond our understanding.

(Matthew 7:1-5). “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

The Rev. Walter Van Zandt Windsor is rector at Trinity Episcopal Church.

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