26 March, Saturday — On Cancelling

Saturday of the 3rd Week of Lent

Hos 5:15-6:6
Lk 18:9-14

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled…”

I find that as one grows older, one’s circle of friends begins to shrink exponentially. It is not only that I no longer have the physical energy to entertain 5 times a week like I used to. It is also because I’ve begun to value quality. I want to give the people I love and care about more of me. The circle becomes smaller out of necessity, because time and effort are finite. So when one of that circle lets you down, the betrayal hurts more deeply.

I ‘cancelled’ someone from my life recently. I hated doing it and I hate using that word, but ‘cancelling’ is essentially what I did. I pruned her out of my life. In the end, it came down to a matter of self-respect. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. There are people who are blessed with this aura of charm, who when you’re with them, have the ability to get you to forgive their transgressions against you, their repeated acts of wilful selfishness. I have realized that I am not so filled with grace that I am Christ-like, with His capacity for limitless patience. She pushed me beyond the point of anger, beyond the point of despising, beyond the line where thereafter, there is nothing. Nothing. And because there is nothing, I simply stopped. There is no forgiveness. No feeling. No more anger. No caring. There’s nothing.

Am I that Pharisee in today’s gospel? The one who thinks his self-righteousness justifies him? I don’t know. Possibly. Or maybe I’m past that point? There are two sides to any relationship. Maybe she sees my flaws, assuming she sees me. I don’t know if she does… see me, I mean. I don’t know if it would even occur to her, despite everything I have done, and all our years of friendship.

At what point do we allow one-sided relationships to continue unchecked in our lives? God says to forgive always as we have been forgiven, but surely that only enables this sort of bad behaviour? God says give freely expecting nothing in return, but what happens when those who receive from us are shameless takers and feckless freeloaders? At what point do we say enough and walk away? I don’t know. All I know is that I grew weary of being angry. I realized that my anger was beginning to drain the other relationships within that circle that were related to her. So I chose them and I chose myself, and I stopped.

This is the holy season of Lent, the season where we ask for forgiveness, where we repent, and pray and fast and give alms. It seems a bit rich of me to be asking God for forgiveness when in this instance, I have chosen not to forgive; when I’ve chosen to close my palm and give to her no more. Is my relationship with God like hers with me? In my relationship with God, am I the shameless taker, the feckless freeloader who is draining God’s patience, with no thought about giving back or even being aware of the hurt that I cause Him? Does He think, “Why does she not see me after everything I have done?”

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the discernment this Lenten season, to know what to do with the emotionally abusive relationships in our lives.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the people in our lives who see us, who love us, for whom we are enough as we are. We give thanks for God’s loving mercies. May we never take Him for granted the way we ourselves are taken for granted.

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