Freedom at its Finest
Then one of the scholars of the law said to him in reply, “Teacher, by saying this you are insulting us too.” And he said, “Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.” (Luke 11:42-46)
When people hurt us, our first instinct is to hurt them back. We scratch and claw in the way that they have scratched and clawed at us. In desperation, we attempt to thrust our painful realities upon their hearts, hoping this will somehow make us free again.
But let’s be real. It doesn’t.
I have learned the hard way that when you are hurting, burdening another person with that same hurt will only make the situation worse. Inflicting pain on another will only further your pain.
However, being the imperfect human beings we are, it is only natural for us to want to seek revenge to some extent. Maybe you are a man in your late twenties whose long-term girlfriend proved to be unfaithful in the end. Seek revenge; hate her forever and never speak to her again. Or on a lighter note, maybe you’re a college student who just got out of an extremely difficult exam that you’re positive you failed. Blame the professor; it’s all his fault because he’s such a bad teacher.
It’s only human to think these thoughts when we are facing a struggle, no matter the depth of the struggle. It’s okay to experience these emotions. Life throws you curveballs every once in a while; God understands.
Yet what is not understandable and what is not okay is to act on these emotions.
Here is where we begin to separate the weak from the strong.
In the midst of our very apparent imperfection, we experience the irrational emotions we do, but only the strongest of people are those who notice this irrationality and choose not to act on their fleeting emotions.
The strongest of people are those who, when hurt by others, do not hurt others in return. Instead, they love.
Throughout my life, I constantly find myself wresting with this concept. An imperfect, immature, irrational desire to seek revenge consistently creeps its way into my heart when I face painful situations. Just a tiptoe, just a fleeting emotion, and I easily open the doors of my heart to let it all rush in. I experience pain; I throw the pain back in return. I experience darkness; I burden others with that same darkness.
It's time to wake up! This is not the path that leads to fullness of life.
I know the path that leads to life, and I am ready to start living it. I am tired of living a reciprocal kind of lifestyle, hurt for hurt, pain for pain, darkness for darkness, hate for hate.
When people throw hurt, pain, and darkness across my path, I want to throw nothing but love back. I want to learn how to love those who hurt me. I know now that responding to hate with more hate will only cause us to dig an even deeper hole for ourselves.
I’m sure we can all agree that we don’t expect people to hurt us. We don’t wake up in the mornings hoping to be overcome with pain by the end of the day. From the very moment we wake up, we hold the people in our lives to a certain standard, expecting them to love us in every way they can throughout our days.
In a sense, we “impose on people burdens hard to carry.” We expect people to fill us up, to build us up, and to strengthen our hearts with love.
But do we expect the same of ourselves? “But you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them!” Sure, we expect ourselves to be perfect when it comes to our own success in life. We strive for perfect appearances, perfect resumes, perfect occupations...but do we strive to be perfect in the way we love others?
We expect the people in our lives to love us at all times and to be there for us, but the minute we are hurt or are struggling, we are so quick to throw hurt right back in their direction.
Wake up, people. It doesn’t matter if you are Christian or not. For every person in every place at every time: STOP expecting perfection out of the people in your lives! Stop placing the burden of perfection on the individuals around you, whether family or not, friends or not. Many priests, authors, and speakers touch on the idea of not expecting perfection out of ourselves, but very few highlight the even greater issue of expecting absolute perfection out of others.
We impose on people burdens so hard to carry – like the burden of perfection – but we ourselves do not lift even one finger to touch those same burdens.
If you expect people to love you, then why do you persist in living in hatred?
If you expect people to forgive you, then why do you fail to allow others to live in the freedom of forgiveness as well?
If you expect people to be perfect, and you judge them when they’re not, then how do you possibly expect to be happy with your own undeniably imperfect self?
Today is the first day of the rest of your life. No matter what you’ve done in the past, TODAY you can respond to everything you face with an attitude of acceptance and love. TODAY you can stop burdening others and yourself with the burden of perfection. And in doing so, TODAY you can get just a taste, just a sip, just a touch of what it feels like to truly be alive.
And if that isn’t freedom then I don’t know what is.