While traveling surrounded by the beauty of the Swiss Alps, my companion began to praise someone—my villain. Thousands of miles away from home, and the specter of my pain had found me.
We hear forgiveness brings freedom and hope the memory of our pain will never bother us again. However, in many cases the person who caused our pain hasn’t changed. We continue to work, worship, and live around them. We run into people who believe their pretty pretense. They jab our wounds, and we feel awkward because we’re not sure how to respond.
If we’re silent when others applaud someone who has hidden darkness, are we misleading them by our silence? If we speak up, we sound bitter and judgmental. What are we to do?
Forgiveness frees us from our bitterness to make wise decisions and heal from our injuries. While painful emotions no longer steer us, we may still feel them. And yes, there’s a difference between feeling hurt and being controlled by bitterness (Hebrews 12:15).
In an effort to avoid bitterness, some swing to the opposite extreme. I’ve heard people ask God to help them see only the good in their villains. That sounds noble, but is it biblical? Matthew 7:6 says not to throw pearls to pigs. If we ignore the mud, how do we recognize the pigs?
Forgiveness doesn’t toss out discernment. The Bible uses yeast to illustrate the influence of evil. A little bit contaminates much. If you are a shepherd, you not only need wisdom to protect yourself, but those in your charge.
Listen to some Scriptural warnings. Which ones apply to your situation?
- “Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul.” Proverbs 22:24-25 (NLT)
- “Love must be completely sincere. Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good.” Romans 12:9 (GNT)
- Do not be fooled. “Bad companions ruin good character.” I Corinthians 15:33 (GNT)
Jesus warned, beware of those who appear good, but are really vicious wolves. Some of those Jesus referred to even performed many miracles. But Jesus still called them wicked (Matthew 7:15-23).
So back to our original question. Do you say something when the person who hurt you is brought up in a positive light? Let love be your guide.
If the person asks for your opinion or could be injured and your knowledge could spare them from harm, a warning may be appropriate. Paul warned his friends in the faith, “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm, but the Lord will judge him for what he has done. Be careful of him, for he fought against everything we said,” (II Timothy 4:14-15, NLT).
Love will tell you when to be quiet and when to speak. It’s not dishonest to be silent. But sometimes love must warn.
My trip to Switzerland taught me I can’t run from pain, but my hurt may save someone else from harm.
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Deborah W. Wilson