When someone criticizes or disagrees with you,
a small ant of hatred and antagonism
is born in your heart. If you do not squash
that ant at once, it might grow into a snake,
or even a dragon.~ Rumi
When I read that passage from Rumi (a sufi philosopher) I was reminded of these verses in Scripture:
Ephesians 4:26-4726 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.
I'd like to think that I practice what those verses preach, but I have to admit, I don't always. There has been more than one occasion where an argument will occur and be unsettled by the time I drift off into another realm of consciousness. Waking becomes an uncomfortable endeavor as a tinge of guilt usually rises in the morning to meet my conscience, greeting it with great mirth and then infecting it with rationalizations as to why reconciliation is not important, usually in the form of distractions and pride. I'm too busy to call that particular person, or wow, that person said some hurtful things, I should apologize but he/she really crossed the line. Pride is an extremely effective barrier that comes between us and making peace with others, and experiencing peace within ourselves.
Oftentimes what starts as a small misunderstanding or disagreement between us and others ends up becoming a bitter fued as the small festering wound that another can cause our heart to experience becomes a raging infection fed by time, and our own illusions and egos.
Rumi warns us to stomp out these feelings of hate, dislike, conflict before they get out of hand and end up manifesting themselves into much larger forces within us, causing us great angst and turmoil. Such illusions, for that's what they really are, they aren't real but false and grossly altered versions of reality, lead sadly to the destruction of relationships that might have otherwise offered us much light and joy. Scripture echos this by implying that we must do this immediately, not letting the sun go down before reconciliation is made, lest the devil take a foothold.
Jesus died to reconcile us to God. He was able to forgive even those who pounded the nails into his flesh, hanging him up on the cross to die a horrific and very human death full of suffering and pain. It is because of his sacrifice that our sins are forgiven, and how many they are! I think of all the things I've done wrong and how God has forgiven me each time I come before him in humility. Certainly, through Jesus, God teaches us to forgive and there is true liberation in forgiving others. It's a win-win concept really. We create peace in our lives between others and remove the barriers of bitterness in our own hearts to experience more fully the presence and peace of God.
Jesus emphasized the importance of reconciliation. Not only should we try to deal with the seeds of hatred and irritation that others put in our own hearts but those we put into other's as well.
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
It is hard to come before God with a heart that is clean and pure when it is clouded with controversy and conflict. So it's my suggestion that we clean up our hearts and seek out those who have caused us angst and unease, anger and frustration and forgive them. And perhaps even more difficult...for those who we've wronged, ask that they forgive us. It isn't easy, but it is something we are all called to do and it will bring us and others much peace.
I know recently there was someone that brought me much pain and it took me to swallow a lot of pride to come and reveal to them my own contribution towards our conflict, ask forgiveness and also accept their apology. Life's often painful, but so is giving birth...and any mother that has given birth will say that the pain was well worth the new life that now rests in their arms. Let's be authors of new beginnings that speak of love and light and of compassion, built on the framework of reconciliation and hope. Let's take joy in the birth pains of reconcilation for the new life it produces in our hearts and in our relationships.
I would love to read your thoughts, please leave them in the comments section :)