A child’s tale tells the story of a tailor who stuck a pin in a baby elephant’s trunk. Years passed. One day the elephant saw the man again. He filled his trunk with water and sprayed the mean tailor. The elephant had his revenge. Because elephants never forget.
Like elephants, people remember offences. When I was 15, a “friend” meanly remarked that my figure was thick in the middle and hipless, not small and curvy like hers. According to her, she had perfect proportions.
Ten or twelve years passed. I was home visiting and went shopping with my mother and aunt. As we drove through the main shopping area, my aunt pointed and said, “There’s your friend.”
What I saw was a massive behind waddling down the sidewalk. I laughed out loud. It gave me enormous pleasure to see what had happened to those perfect proportions. Like the elephant, I remembered the mean girl who stuck a pin in my self-esteem. My laughter, if she could’ve heard it, would’ve been like mucky water from an elephant’s trunk.
I’ve thought of my response often. I’m not proud of it but it reminds me that I’m not so far removed from the nature of the elephant. When someone stabs us, we never forget the pain. Our natural inclination is to strike back, or to take pleasure in the offender’s pain.
The desire to strike back is deeply rooted in us. But it isn’t the godly response. “Forgive those who trespass against you,” Jesus said. Does He know how hard it is to forgive? No one knows more about forgiveness than Jesus.
What I’ve learned in the years since this incident is that when I forgive those who have stuck me with pins, the pain of the pin gradually disappears – sometimes instantly. I don’t have to spray my enemies with dirty water – or laugh at their misfortunes.
Jesus is definite about how He wants us to respond to people who hurt us.
“In prayer there is a connection between what God does and what you do. You can’t get forgiveness from God, for instance, without also forgiving others. If you refuse to do your part, you cut yourself off from God’s part.” Matthew 6:15 The Message