I believe that God calls on us, His children, to give one another grace — to give good to one another even when we don’t deserve it. Often this looks like refusing to write you off when you fail, or giving me the benefit of the doubt, or forgiving and letting you try again when you ask.
I know that I need this grace extended to me just as much as you do because every single one of us makes mistakes and gets things wrong. I know that God can extract something good out of those mistakes and help us learn from those experiences. I know that we’re all in process and need room to learn as we go, and to learn the hard way.
I believe in giving people second chances and in forgiving seventy times seven.
But I have to admit something. I’ve been second-guessing second chances lately.
What do you do when someone persists in hurting you, in refusing to listen, or in rebelling in general. Is there a limit to the effort you spend on them? At what point do you count your losses and walk away?
A wise friend reminded me recently that we need to make decisions based on what is, not on what it should be. The reality is that we do not see into hearts and we cannot change people. We try, oh do we try. But it only results in more wrongdoing — misjudging, maligning, bullying, manipulation, abuse of authority, blackmail, torture, threats, fear, and a host of other awful things God has commanded us not to do. Only God can see into a person’s heart, and only God can change it.
What do I do when the reality is that a person or a situation will not change? When they will not acknowledge a mistake they made, continue to make foolish or harmful choices, or insist on hurting me over and over and over? As someone who firmly believes that I am to overflow with grace and never consider someone outside of God’s reach, what do I do in the face of persistent intentional wrongdoing?
Do I step back and wait? Do I walk away, but maintain a willingness to re-engage (or at least to forgive and renew relationship) in the event that God does work in their heart and change them later? What if I’m wrong, and they don’t need to change?
What does it look like to be people of second chances, people of grace, in this situation?
I don’t know how to answer these questions, but I confess to feeling like I’m wasting time and energy banging on a closed-and-padlocked door when I could be happily and enthusiastically working in positive ways elsewhere. I want to turn around and find that place where I ought to be expending my energy, but I don’t want to fail to offer grace if I should, even if it costs.
How do you approach this?
P.S. It can be easy to look at posts like this and speculate about the specifics that lie behind it. As with most of my posts, this is a general reflection on a variety of situations I’ve encountered over time. This is not a passive-aggressive way to say “My marriage sucks” (we’re doing great).
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