Frustration is not a feeling I like to be familiar with; in fact, it frustrates me to be frustrated, so I try to avoid it all together. Yet, when I awoke this morning, a wild rage from the previous day reawakened with me. I refuse to rely on unreliable people! I guess I’ll just have to do everything myself. Just like always, I fumed.
It’s amazing how being let down by others can boost my own ego. Suddenly, it’s as if no one but me is capable of the high standards I set.
My bitterness towards those who let me down me leaked into my coffee. And into the rest of my morning. After spending the day making nothing but a fuss, I went to the gym in the afternoon to shoot hoops. Sports have always been my refuge. On a heated mission, I strode up to the cashier, pulled out my wallet and asked for a day pass to their facility.
“How old are you?” he asked. I wanted to return the question to make sure he was not a child laborer in our country.
“25,” I said curtly. My consumption in the previous day’s frustration weighed heavily both on my heart and my tongue.
“Wow, you don’t look that old!” the child-man exclaimed before he charged me the adult fee and waved me through. I was flattered. Or offended. I wasn’t sure which. But I was certain that I was in no mood to strike up conversation or barter for a lower price. So instead, I traded my driver’s license for a basketball and went on my un-merry way.
When I reached the gym, I surveyed the courts to see if any baskets were open. I had been in this gym dozens of times and it never failed to be flocked with foul-mouthed kids who cared more about themselves than the fact that they were in public. I felt anger rush through my blood as I peered around me. Some launched basketballs across the crowded gym without regard for where (or on whom) it landed. Others took up the majority of the courts with sloppy scrimmage; and while playing, some athletes remained tuned in to nothing but their iPod. One kid was playing full court while wearing a baseball hat and flip flops. I couldn’t believe the idiocy. These kids had no idea what they were doing. And yet here they were, traipsing all over hardwood that could be appropriately used. By me.
How dare they.
I plopped my bag down near the only available basket and began warming up. I dodged a ball that ricocheted off the backboard to my left, then shook my head in immense annoyance. It didn’t help my cause that I was missing shots.
“What am I supposed to do?” I asked, not about the wildness of life around me, but rather the insolent way I viewed it all.
“See them as they are,” I heard God tell me. “See them as you are.”
In that moment, the judgement clouding my vision slowly vanished and I realized how wrong I was to look down at these kids. At anyone, for that matter–including those who upset me the day before. I was no better than any of them, just as they are no better than me. We are all the same. Humans. And, despite my elevated bent toward self-sufficiency, I know that I am nowhere near perfect. I have let people down before and I know it will happen again in the future. As imperfect beings, that’s just how we’re wired. We fail.
There’s a surrender in forgiveness, a giving away of something in order to reconcile with those who harmed you. What is that something we give away? Complacent animosity perhaps? Or the misguided notion that we deserve to be treated flawlessly? Perhaps its a giving of pardon, a giving of charity, a giving of love. And we have to make sure we have those things in our possession before we can give them away.
I had wasted my day writhing in anger because I had not yet forgiven–and that was no one’s fault but my own. After all, those who make a mistake are warranted forgiveness. If one cannot forgive another, the problem doesn’t lie with the offender–it lies at the heart of the offended. And, out of arrogance, I spent my hours steaming instead of forgiving. Only with that realization could I forgive and move on.
Turning back toward my hoop, I felt a new looseness in my shoulders and spring in my legs. I grasped the pimpled leather in the tips of my fingers. I bent my knees. And then I let go.