58. Rank and File

58. Rank and File

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness

Rank and File

Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred. It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.

~Corrie ten Boom

After following leads on a break-and-enter suspect (I was a police officer for over twenty years), I came across information that could lead to an arrest. I knew our district detectives were getting desperate, hoping to put an end to the local crime spree. So, I passed on some vital information to a colleague, a detective. He thanked me and said he’d look into it. He promptly obtained a search warrant and made the arrest without me.

The inspector glowingly praised his work and dedication to duty, not mentioning my crucial lead, or my partner’s contribution. But how could he have? My detective friend had purposely left out our involvement in the report. I thought a little recognition would have been nice and bolstered the relationship between us “uniforms” and the esteemed detectives.

My partner responded with a shrug and muttered under his breath, “defectives…” Not wanting to follow suit, I realized I had two choices: I could vent my disappointment and anger—likely on the next speeder—or give it to a higher power, knowing that He has already blessed me and thought no less of my abilities.

Why is it so difficult for us men to initiate forgiveness? I pondered that question as I sat in my patrol car. My wife, even when wronged by a close friend, finds it easy to forgive. For me, I know it’s an issue of pride, based on performance. Whenever I’ve been offended, there’s always that part of me that wanted to hang onto the hurt to show I’ve been wounded.

Does it help to harbour resentment for a past transgression? Truthfully, it only works against us, delaying forgiveness. So how did I respond the next time I ran into that detective in the police station hallway? First, I resisted the urge to look the other way, or turn around, effectively ignoring him. Second, I made eye contact, greeted him by his first name, and walked on without making a snide comment. Not an easy thing to do.

In the long run, not a whole lot had changed, but I knew he knew I wasn’t harbouring resentment toward a fellow officer. It wasn’t my place to challenge him, to persuade him that he had blown it. It was something he had to figure out on his own. The last thing I wanted was for the issue to linger. After all, we may end up working together some day.

The Good Book tells us to deal quickly with a transgressor, even when that person has no intention of righting the wrong. We need not, nor should we, expect the offender to apologize. Our part is clear: forgive the offender and move on. After all, God doesn’t ignore our prayer of forgiveness or put off His mercy. And for that I’m truly grateful.

~Robert J. Stermscheg

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