Which would bother you more while you were trying to rest:
1. a radiator making clicking noises?
2. a person snoring?
Most people would say they’d get more annoyed at the snoring person, because the radiator is a machine without the free will to stop.
We figure that the person has the ability to change while the radiator is an inanimate object. We can get mad at it, but shouting at a heater for interrupting your sleep is a fruitless pursuit. The person, on the other hand, we believe, should know better
I remember learning this lesson first-hand when I was a sophomore at Tufts University. I was wearing a propeller beanie cap (because I was the kind of guy who would wear a propeller beanie cap), and was walking early morning down the hilly campus when someone pulled the cap off my head. I spun around, very upset. There was no one there. I got even more angry because now they not only had pulled my hat off but were hiding, making me look like a fool. I looked around. No one was around. Not a soul. The wind picked up, and I saw my hat on a low tree limb. The branch had perfectly caught the propeller and lifted the hat off my head.
I didn’t get angry at a tree.
But, had there been someone in the tree who had lassoed my hat, I would have been really angry at them.
Herein lies the problem: Why would I get angry at a person where I wouldn’t get angry at a tree?
I would get angry at a person because they should know better. They ought not do such a thing. But a tree? A tree can’t be inconsiderate.
Those who offend us — if they truly knew better — wouldn’t. Would they?
That’s a bit hard to swallow, but try.
We ought to treat people who “transgress against us” with the same forgiveness that we would afford a non sentient machine or tree for doing the same. It’s Jesus’s quote on the cross: “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
I got my first real glimpse of forgiving people for their offenses directed at me when the senior class in my high school pulled a prank on the teachers, piling up all of the desks in each of their classrooms. They wrote a note on my pile that read, “We are sorry for doing this.”
Initially, I was furious. Of course, they knew better, I had proof: they left a note. But, of course, I came to realize, they didn’t know better; and, how did I know that? (They did it anyway.)
We know that evils happen when we treat objects like people and people like objects. In this case, I’m going to ask you to treat people like objects.
This week’s spiritual advice?
Be kind to someone who has offended you – it was inadvertent.