Once again this December, we will all likely spend some, or perhaps a significant amount of time on finding just the right gift for others. We will also once again be reminded of the time honored adage that “it is better to give than to receive”.
All well and good. But I ask you to consider something else this Advent and Christmas season too. Giving yourself just the right gift. A highly specific gift.
Abandoning a grudge...
An old Jewish spiritual text asks,
“What is revenge and what is bearing a grudge? If one says to his fellow, “Lend me your sickle”, and he replies, “No”, then the next day the second comes to the first and says, “Lend me your axe”, and the first replies, “No, because you would not lend me your sickle” - that is revenge. But if one says to his fellow, “Lend me your axe”, and the other says, “No”, then the next day, the second comes to the first and says, “Lend me your garment”, and the first replies, “Here it is, because I am not like you who would not lend me what I asked for” - that is bearing a grudge.
Regarding this tale, Lisa Rappaport comments that while it is generally less harmful that taking revenge, holding a grudge still leaves us less than fully alive. She says that “When we hold grudges, a part of us dies. When we erect walls and turn our backs on others, we cut off our ability to connect. And when this happens, we are not truly living.”
She then adds, “A therapist friend of mine once said that 50% of relationship is repair.
All of which points to the core of the Christmas story. God comes into the world in the person of Jesus as a way of reconnecting - repairing - our relationship with God. God reaches out to us despite our continued insistence on turning our backs on God and the ways God calls us to live, and despite the harm we do in the process.
If God refuses to hold a grudge, then what right do we have? Especially since, as Rappaport says, we do more harm to ourselves than we do to the other person when we hold that grudge. Which, come to think of it, suggests that maybe the Christmas event - the coming of Jesus into the world - wasn’t meant to be a gift just for us after all. Maybe God was giving herself just the right gift too.
Advent and Christmas Blessings,