Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Faces of Forgiveness

I teach on anger and forgiveness on a regular basis. I find forgiveness to be a fascinating subject - something that strikes at the core of what it means to be both human and divine. Anyway, there is a new book called The Faces of Forgiveness by two profs from Bethel University and Seminary. It's pretty deep, but the research facts on forgiveness were interesting.

Stephen Sandage said that there are three key components to forgiveness;

1. Humility; the ability to understand that you are made from the same stuff as the next guy. Because of that, you are capable of doing the same evil to others as has been done to you. This keeps you from overreacting and treating your offender like scum.

2. Empathy; flows out of humility. Because you understand your ability to do wrong, you are able to put yourself in the shoes of your offender. You don't excuse them but you are able to see how they could do what they did.

3. Differentiation; the awareness that you are distinct from others. It's the opposite of being emmeshed or co-dependent. The co-dependent person needs affirmation from people. When they are offended it is very hard for them to forgive because they can't stand alone. Their anger is the only thing that protects them. But the differentiated person can more easily forgive because they find their worth apart from the affirmation of others.

Something to think about.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

To Go (to church) or Not to Go

When I'm on vacation the biggest decision is always whether I should go to church or not. I had to make that decision this week. It's interesting to me because it puts me in touch with all the people that decide to venture into Cedarbrook back home.

I actually thought about it all week. My first decision was to not go. I don't like most churches and I didn't want to risk having a bummer experience. After all, it WAS my vacation. I could be sleeping! But I was intrigued by a church within walking distance. It met in the local high school and they had a nice banner displaying when they met along with their website. It looked like something Cedarbrook would do.

Having a website is a big plus. I thought I'd at least give them the benefit of the doubt and check them out on-line. You can check them out yourself here. Nice website. They are only two years old but they seemed to know what they were doing. I realized that if they didn't have a website I probably would have never visited. Too risky.

After going to the website my fears of a bad experience were alleviated. So I took the small risk and walked over this morning. It surprised me to realize that I was nervous going to church! Funny. I never think about that being how people feel. But I was. I was nervous about how long the service might go...nervous that they might zero in on me and overwhelm me and concerned that I'd be subjected to a long sermon that I might not agree with. I'm not sure if anything else made me nervous.

The whole experience was painless. The music was good. The sermon was alright (I felt like the pastor overemphasized the importance of me serving in the church). When it was over after 60 minutes I was surprised and relieved. I've been known to walk out of churches that don't know when to quit. So it was refreshing for them to quit before I was thinking about it.

Overall it was fine. I won't rehash all my reservations about church (see below). I left underwhelmed. I really want people to walk away from a church experience inspired to live a better life and feeling like they encountered God. I want people to feel compelled to come back - not sure why - just feeling like it's the right thing to do. I want people to feel like they tapped into something so deep and mysterious that one visit isn't enough, only the beginning. (I have no idea if people ever leave Cedarbrook feeling that way. But that's my goal).

So, was the experience worth my time? Well, as a spiritual experience, no. Being a visitor from out of state changes things. I was more of a fly on the wall/observer. But as a learning experience, yes. It was good to be on the other side of the church equation. I just want church to offer more...