Alexander Pope is credited with saying, “To err is human, to forgive, divine.” It has also been said that all emotions and impulses reduce to fear or love. Fear tends to trigger fight or flight, not the impulse to forgive.
Fighters often seek a scapegoat, someone to direct their anger and hatred toward. In their minds, someone else is to blame for the unfair and unjust things that happen. Being a victim offers a sense of relief from whatever pain they are trying to escape. When the focus is directed towards how bad the other person is, they don’t have to acknowledge their own anxiety and fear.
Persons who prefer flight, tend to keep pain at a surface level. Every issue is black or white. This means there are good guys and bad guys, good ideas and bad ones. A worldview that divides in this way must exclude those who don’t fit predetermined standards and rules for belonging.
Neither fight nor flight does anything to resolve the fear. If anything, it encourages violence and perpetuates pain in unhealthy ways. One only has to read the headlines, scan social media trends, or watch the breaking news to understand this reality.
The only way to transform fear is to forgive. Instead of seeking retribution we must love those who wrong us. Instead of projecting blame we must learn how to suffer in our pain and address our fears.
Today’s hatred and vitriol encourages those who prefer fight and flight to deny, blame, or project their pain and fear. When will our leaders, communities, and nation admit these patterns of thinking don’t change anything? Who will lead the discussion about forgiveness and grace?
Fight, flight, or forgive? Assess blame, seek to divide, or extend grace? Three choices; what will we decide?
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