Sermon Illustrations

The Devastating Fruit of Unforgiveness

Once upon a time there was a man to whom a great harm had been done. The exact nature is of no consequence, as long as we know the hurt went deep. He felt it continually, the pain was searing and relentless, and even the most basic tasks of life were exceedingly difficult. In his mind, heart, and spirit this harm was ever present; it whispered, it screamed, it cluttered every thought, interpreted every word heard, and manipulated every decision. The man was deeply wounded, yet believed he had to carry on. He believed he had to make do, be tough, keep going; so he held his head high, pulled himself up by his bootstraps, and walked through life as best he could.

Over time, he learned to cope. He learned to ignore the hurt that had been done – the voices were still there, he just stopped listening – sort of – and believed he was “fine”. The defenses got stronger, the walls got thicker, and the man thought “This is a good thing – I am protecting myself from other, new hurts, and I am containing the old ones where they can’t get out, where no one else will see, and so I can continue through life with everyone looking at me and admiring me for how strong and tough I am.”

Meanwhile, the one who had hurt him lived on. This one knew that their actions weren’t the best, and (deep inside) regretted them. In fleeting moments of honesty, they recognized they had been in the wrong; but then their own voices spoke up – “it’s not your fault, really…”; “he had it coming you know, he isn’t perfect either…”; and, most devious of all, “look at him, he’s doing fine, it obviously wasn’t a big deal…”. And so this person balled this same experience up like a piece of used scrap paper and threw it away.

The one who had been hurt became withdrawn, cautious, guarded. He could never really trust – that requires vulnerability, honesty, letting someone behind the wall. And so he kept his relationships shallow, temporary, fleeting. If someone got too close, he backed away. And the walls grew thicker still. He became extremely safe, like a nuclear bunker a mile below the ground, and extremely alone. The other person suffered none of this – they were free to engage, they tried hard to not hurt again, though sometimes they did, and then they did as before – justified, rationalized, balled it up and chucked it out, and moved on. This second person formed new relationships, some deep and caring, and lived life with abundance, while the first was locked away in lonely safety.

It’s Not Fair:

What do you think of my little story? Does it resonate as true? Is it fair? Does it make you feel angry, or sad? Do you see yourself in either of the two characters?

From a sermon by Steven Simala Grant, The Jailor is the Jailed, 6/1/2010

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