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The “Compound Interest” of an Unforgiving Spirit

Last week, after speaking at a conference, a woman approached me troubled with one of my teachings in my book, The 10 Second Rule. The chapter she took issue with is entitled, Love the One You’re With. In it, I said that although we won’t always, “like” those we serve, we’re still commanded to be kind and generous to everyone, even our enemies.

She said her enemy is her mother. Apparently, her mother was and is, cold and controlling, and with the holidays coming up, as she said “I’m getting the sweats just thinking about spending two days with her without getting emotionally cornered. Are there some people just too toxic to “like” or be around?” she asked.

To her relief, I said “yes, there are toxic people who you do have the right to keep at a distance. However, I’d be interested in hearing why she’s still so toxic for you after 30+ years of living outside her home.” I wanted to hear what she’s done to try to heal this relationship or put proper boundaries on it.

Her answer reminded me of this principle I’ve observed in myself and others, we want mercy from God for ourselves, but justice for those who’ve hurt us.

I’m grateful God doesn’t take the same attitude with me. C.S. Lewis had an interesting take on the unintended consequences of not trying to love or like our enemies.

The worldly man treats certain people kindly because he ‘likes’ them: the Christian, trying to treat everyone kindly, finds himself liking more and more people as he goes on–including people he could not even have imagined himself liking at the beginning.

This same spiritual law works terribly in the opposite direction. The Germans, perhaps, at first ill-treated the Jews because they hated them: afterwards they hated them much more because they had ill-treated them. The more cruel you are, the more you will hate; and the more you hate, the more cruel you will become – and so on in a vicious circle forever.

Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you’ve ever dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.

From Mere Christianity Compiled in A Year with C.S. Lewis

Compound Interest We no longer have the Nazi’s to fear and hate. But, nowhere is this principle of “evil increasing with compound interest” more applicable as in our own families. If you have a mother, father or sibling who hurt you, controlled your life or you believe, never really loved you, you have probably relived that hurt many times over the years. Each time you do, the anger and unforgiving attitude compounds with interest. And we humans have a nasty and sinful habit of self-righteously “fondling our wounds” and then, we wonder why we’re not healing from them! There is old adage that says, “Whatever you dwell upon, will likely come to pass.” If we continue to “relive and remember” and use that as an excuse for not liking them, it allows, “a bridgehead from which the enemy launches his attacks” as Lewis observed.

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” Matthew 5:44-45a & 46

One of the foundational principles of the 10 Second Rule is this. “Christian character is shaped less by your big, dramatic decisions, than by the cumulative impact of thousands of decisions to act virtuously.” Consider making these two important decisions; first,do not let your mind return to the wound memories. Second, be as kind as you can to those who’ve hurt you.

Thanksgiving is coming up. If you’re serious about trying to love the one you’re with, and in particular a parent who still frightens you, please read my blog on the subject. It may help. (   In any case, ask the Holy Spirit to warn you when you’re about to “remember” and ask him to remind you to speak and act kindly to your enemy. Who knows where that will lead? Even if kindness doesn’t change them, it will change you!

How following Jesus works in real life.

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