I’ve heard it said that the most successful people in the world earned that title because they were not afraid to fail. Rather, they marched forward the line of what is possible by consistently failing and learning from their mistakes. As I was thinking about this tonight it occurred to me that Christians ought to have the most successful relationships on the planet. Not only are we commanded to love one another, but we are given free license to fail. In fact we are guaranteed to fail, and when we fail each other we are commanded to forgive each other an infinite number of times. Imagine the relational power that should be unleashed through this dynamic! A group of people who love each other as much as they love themselves, accept that people (including themselves) will inevitably fail, and forgive one another when they do!
I’m just beginning to think and live this way. Though I profess forgiveness I often exert my perfectionism over myself and those around me. Instead of expecting people to fail I expect them to be perfect, and when they inevitably fail I respond with judgment, disappointment, and anger. My expectations are all wrong. I should expect people to fail in their relationships with me just as I often fail in my relationships with others: I say dumb things and I’m frequently rude, impatient, selfish and angry. I’d rather not hurt people in these ways, and through my recovery program I’m striving to let God heal my character defects. But at the end of the day I’m still only human. No matter how hard I try I’ll never be perfect, and frankly, trying to be perfect ultimately denies my own humanity.
But let’s say I get involved with a group of people who are all committed to loving unconditionally and who strive to forgive others an infinite number of times (though we will fail at perfect love and forgiveness). When I hurt someone in this theoretical group through a selfish act, realize and confess my sin, and am forgiven, both of us have learned and grown: I’ve learned how not to behave (and perhaps this person has learned from my failure as well), and we’ve both learned the power of forgiveness. Over time our love and respect for one another should grow to the point where I would gladly lay my life down for these brothers and sisters because we have known and been known by one another in our full, sinful humanity.