The Last Word

We all want to have the last word. In any argument, we want to win. When we hear others argue, we can hear how silly it sounds. All that wearying back-and-forth, when in the end, neither will admit to having lost. But when the fight is our fight, getting in the last word seems like a matter more urgent than life and death.

Self-hatred isn’t the only thing of which we need to let go. We also need to let go of anger. More specifically, we need to let go of our need to be angry all the time.

Why do we hang onto our outrage? Is it because we’re afraid that if we don’t, “they” will be right about us? That’s how it looks to them. It’s what they tell themselves. I don’t know how many of us even realize that.

Our anger isn’t hurting them; it’s hurting us. They wear our anger like a badge of honor. To them, it’s evidence of our weakness. They think we doth protest too much. They revel in their power to upset us, sure it means they must be “right.”

I know people who still seethe with rage over things that were said and done to them thirty, forty or fifty years ago. And what has it gotten them? They’ve based their whole lives on that anger — allowed it to define who they’ve become.

All they’ve done is give those who have hurt them a far longer reach, and vastly more power, than they could possibly have had without such help.

I have heard it said that refusing to forgive others is like taking poison and hoping they will die. Perhaps that’s why Jesus made such an issue of forgiveness. It isn’t because those who inflicted the harm deserve it; it’s so we can be healed of the hurt they caused.

To some degree, LGBT Christians already understand this principle. We know that when non-Christian LGBT’s castigate us for “capitulating to the enemy” by being Christian, their argument is all wet. The fact of the matter is that homophobic straight Christians don’t want us to be Christian — it drives them nuts that they’ve been unable to run us out of the Church.

If you do what your enemies don’t want you to do, that’s fighting them. If you do exactly what they DO want — exit the Church in a huff — they will applaud with joy. By what sort of pretzel logic do non-Christian LGBT’s think they’re really striking a blow against those who have hurt them by playing directly into their hands? It all sounds very “Art of War.” But it comes from the greatest charter of peace ever written: the Gospel of Christ.

That doesn’t mean we have no right to be hurt or angry. It doesn’t mean we haven’t really been wronged, or make the wrong done to us right. It merely takes away the sting of it. It neutralizes its power over us, freeing us from slavery to it.

God wants us to forgive not for the sake of those who have hurt us, but for our own. If our parents, or pastors, or teachers, or bosses were unloving to us, why should their lack of love have the final word? If we allow their failure to love us to shape who we are, it can only warp us. We were created to reflect God’s love. If we are to grow into who God intends us to be, we must let that love — instead of anyone’s hate — have the final word.

I have as much need to hear these things as anybody else does. Nobody gets more righteously indignant than I do. And I have been greatly wronged by many people in my life. But my ongoing anger does nothing to punish them. Some of them don’t know that I’m angry, others don’t care, and still others are now beyond the ability to make things better because they’re dead.

Plenty of people are sorry for what they did to us, but we still find it hard to let it go. If we hold onto our resentments for too long, we become defined by them. It’s as if we think that having been wronged gives us a greater claim to God’s love. But God loved us long before the injuries — long before we were even born. A thousand years before King Solomon’s time, God already knew our names, and eagerly anticipated the day of our entry into the human drama.

Let’s not be drama queens. As my friend, the Rev. Stephen Wayles likes to say, “God loves each one of us as if we were the only one.” I don’t know how God does it, but to “Him” each of us is the star. We are each every bit as important to God as was King Solomon, or David, or Moses, or any of the cast of characters who played their part before us.

Yes, you are as important to God as any king, queen, president or movie star. On God’s team, you rank right alongside Michael Jordan. You’re right up there with Tim Tebow, on one knee or both of them. When you hurt, God hurts. And when you cry, God cries.

But why would we want God to cry? “He” also laughs, and celebrates life, when we do. God wants so much for us to enjoy life, “He” doesn’t want us wasting it on seething resentments. When we let “Him” wipe our tears away, we all get to enjoy it together.