Double or Nothing

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.

Pardon me is so easy to say when passing in a crowded hallway or reaching for a salt shaker and nearly impossible to utter when real hurt or damage has been done (Is it because someone refusing to pardon a passing stranger or outstretched arm commits a bigger offense?). How do I ask for forgiveness when the damage is profound or even irreparable? The unspoken words pound the walls of my head and heart, bruising and battering me in their escape attempts. Why can’t I let them out, especially when they are the only reparation I can make for the harm I’ve done?

When I’m on the receiving end of this pain equation, I have no trouble getting words out; the question is, what words will I release into the world? Speak to send the pain I feel into the heart and soul of another, or speak to release us both from pain given and received? Retribution or restoration spoken and heard: the choice is mine.

I know pardon given and received opens the door to a blessing built for two, damager and damaged, even in tragic circumstances. Pardon unrequested and unrequited bars the door. It’s double or nothing: the door is too big to admit an either/or blessing.

Lord, Make me an instrument of Thy Peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console; to be understood, as to understand; to be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.

This prayer is attributed to Saint Francis. He was born in 1181 or 1182 into a wealthy family in Assisi, Umbria. He grew up in comfort, turned into a rowdy youth, and eventually looked for glory on the battlefield. His life plan altered when he encountered God. In prayer, he heard God tell him to rebuild the church. He devoted himself to a life of prayer, poverty and service. He is the founder of the Order of Friars Minor (OFM), usually called the Franciscans. He died in 1226 after a life of prayer, poverty, and service. His life, work, and words have inspired countless numbers of people.

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Johnna

I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

2 thoughts on “Double or Nothing”

  1. Double or Nothing is an intriguing title for this piece. Your word “damager” prompted me to think of “pardoner” (as in one who pardons and is thus pardoned). This led to “pardner” or “partner”(doubling) which led to the root “partitio”(L) and “partition”. Aren’t words great? How we use them can create partitions or partnerships. So, is it also in partnering that we are “partnered”? Pardon–got carried away.

    1. What a fun jaunt through the word chain, Bill! Sometimes I forget how fun midrash can be. Thanks for the reminder! Peace, Johnna

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