When They Trespass Against Us

I saw a sign in a church parking lot. It read: “Parking for Church Use Only. Violators will be towed.” I wondered if it might be more effective if some humor were used: “Parking for Church Use Only. Violators will be baptized and expected to tithe.” That should clear the lot.

I heard of one church that posted a sign that read, “We forgive those who trespass against us; but they will be towed all the same.”

We’ve all had people trespass against us in one way or another. And we have each done our share of trespassing. The dictionary defines trespassing as any offense, transgression or error against others. Trespassing covers a huge territory. Though not always intentionally, I know I’ve trespassed plenty over the years and more people than I can remember have trespassed against me.

In his book Lee: The Last Years, author Charles Flood reports that after the American Civil War, Confederate General Robert E. Lee visited a Kentucky lady who took him to the remains of a grand old tree in front of her house. There she bitterly cried that its limbs and trunk had been destroyed by Union artillery fire. She looked to Lee for a word condemning the North or at least sympathizing with her loss.

After a brief silence, the general said, “Cut it down, my dear Madam, and forget it.” He seemed to know that as long as she continued to recount her losses, she’d never get over them. She had to release the North from her debt in order to find anything like happiness again.

There’s a lot I have had to cut down and forget. I believe it’s the only way ahead. It’s the only way to really live after loss, hurt or insult. Cut it down and forget it.

Judith Wallerstein studied and wrote for years about the lives of people who experienced divorce. At first she was surprised to discover how long feelings of anger and hurt lingered after a divorce.  Even ten years after papers were signed, Wallerstein noted that many former husbands and wives were still just as angry at one another as in the beginning.  It’s as if they gazed every day in contempt upon the grand old tree that used to be their relationship, now scarred and irreparably damaged, and used the ritual to feed their bitterness. She noticed that some former spouses, years after a separation, still recited in detail negative violations and trespasses of the other.  The problem? These unhappy people were trapped emotionally by their anger and bitterness.

People will always trespass against us. But there comes a time to cut the tree down and forget it. For in the end, I’ve discovered that only when I fully release others from my debt am I able to build the happy and productive life I want. And though cutting that tree down is rarely my first impulse, but it is my best final response to those who trespass against me.

—  Steve Goodier

Find Steve Goodier here: http://stevegoodier.blogspot.com/. Newsletter: http://LifeSupportSystem.com.