Continuing with relationships, let’s look at another set of lessons we learn from the example of Adam (and Eve). After eating of the tree, Adam and Eve both dodged God.
They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. – Genesis 3:8, NASB
After God confronted them, we see their responses are similar to each other:
The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” – Genesis 3:12-13, NASB
Both snapshots of Scripture present the same issue. Adam and Eve did not want to be accountable for their actions. In the first case, they both hoped to avoid God, and therefore they would not have to explain their actions. They knew what they had done was wrong but didn’t want to face the consequences. In the second case, when the confrontation had occurred, both sought to pass the blame to another. Adam sought to pass the blame back to God and to Eve. Eve sought to pass the blame back to God and to the serpent. In other words, they still didn’t want to be accountable.
Both situations reflect self-centered thinking. Adam and Eve didn’t want to experience the disappointment from God. However, given that God already knew what they had done, He was already experiencing that disappointment. What I should say is they didn’t want to experience the pain from seeing/hearing the disappointment from God. So they first avoided God and then, when that didn’t work, they tried to shift the blame onto someone else (and in fact, onto God Himself). They already felt the guilt from the action of disobedience. What they didn’t realize (and what we often fail to realize as well) is that the guilt will remain until we face up to the person we’ve wronged and received (and accepted) their forgiveness. So even though they were trying to avoid pain, they actually were sustaining pain, too, albeit unintentionally. What do I bring all that up? Just to point out that even when we take a self-centered approach to having committed a wrong in a relationship, we still suffer. So we suffer and the other person suffers. And neither suffering is over with any time soon. So logically, it would just be easier to face the person, admit our fault, and get the business of forgiveness and healing started. So why don’t we?
The first reason is because sometimes the other person won’t forgive. And then the disappointment lingers. But this is a self-centered approach as well. We choose to not forgive because we’ve been wronged. Only, by not forgiving and holding on to the grudge, we actually hold onto a poison within us. That anger, that discontent, that lack of forgiveness will eat away at us. It will linger and it will poison us. Slowly but surely, we will suffer for not forgiving. So, logically, being self-centered here backfires, too. No wonder God tells us to forgive! It’s not just about the other person, it’s about our own health, too. But back to why we don’t deal with the other person and face the pain, the other reason is because we have believed a lie. We are told time heals all wounds. It doesn’t. I know of old hurts in my own family that have gone on for over 20 years. And there’s no healing there because some of the folks have chosen not to forgive and chosen not to heal. The only way to get the healing started is to face the person, admit fault, and hopefully reconciliation begins then.
Being self-centered in this process is defeating for both sides. If we try to avoid the disappointment of the hurt party, we live with the guilt. If we don’t forgive, we swallow a poison that will slowly kill us. Therefore, the only satisfactory response is to admit our fault and deal with the consequences. And when someone has done that after hurting us, the only satisfactory response is to choose to forgive and to begin the healing process. That explains why Jesus talked so much about dealing with issues with our brothers (Matthew 5:23-24) and forgiving each others (Matthew 6:14-15). And you know, I’ve not even talked about how we would want to be treated if we were on the other side. If we were the one wronged, we would want the person to be accountable. And if we were the one admitting fault, we would want to be forgiven. When you add that in to the discussion, it further reinforces the right way to treat each other: be accountable and be ready to forgive.