THOSE (Our Father, Word by Word)

August 10, 2011 | 7 comments

Our Father Who Art in Heaven, Hallowed Be Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done,
On Earth As it Is in Heaven. Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread. Forgive Us Our Trespasses As We Forgive Those…

Those. The word isn’t too exciting in and of itself, but the concept it encapsulates brings up an explosion of emotion: The people who have hurt us.

When I first started praying the Our Father, I always had an uppity little feeling rise within me at this part. “…Those who have trespassed against us.” Ah, yes, those people. The jerks. The idiots. The inconsiderate. In other words, bad people — people different than me. Yeah, yeah, I might have done some stuff wrong too, hence the asking God to forgive me my trespasses part, but it was nothing like what the people did who wronged me. When I would scan my memory for the faces of people who did something harmful enough that I still carried lingering resentment, I was seeing the faces of a different type of people than I was — because, after all, I was one of the good people.

Then one day I came across some black-and-white pictures of lovely folks who looked much like me and my friends. They were having a some kind of party that looked lie a great time. The ladies were dressed beautifully, the handsome men photographed in mid-laugh — someone even broke out an accordion to mix it up a bit. There was a split-second feeling of recognition, the fleeting thought that these people are just like me!

And then I realized that I was looking at photos of an on-site staff retreat at Auschwitz.

I wrote more about that experience here (and posted one of the photos), but the short version is that I came to the stunning realization that no sane person ever thinks that he’s a “bad person.” Evil always works through lies: The only way any of us ever does bad things is by concocting rationalizations to explain to ourselves why our actions are actually good. And thus, the only difference between being a good person and a bad person is the number of lies you allow yourself to believe.

Suddenly, I wasn’t so smug at this part of the Lord’s Prayer anymore. I began to see that I had rationalized away my own bad behavior countless times over the years. And whenever I prayed the words about “those who have trespassed against us, ” I was struck with the humbling knowledge that I was one of the “those” in someone else’s prayer.


  1. Connecticut Catholic Corner

    Very thought provoking post. The struggle I had with “those people” were the ones who refused to ever apologize even when they knew they hurt you- like they took pleasure in knowing they had wounded someone else. I thought, God couldn’t possibly expect *me* to forgive those people. Then the Lord’s words would flash into my mind “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” They knew they had hurt me, but they didn’t know about Jesus, Christian love or turning the other cheek. They were ignorant of the things I was blessed to know about God. When I got my mind around that, I felt pity for them and I could forgive them and pray for them to know the love of God.

  2. Michael

    A very humbling truth indeed. As someone who does have “enemies” in life, I can only hope that they pray for me as much as I pray for them. God’s grace is the only available bridge. May He be the only judge between us. May He heal our wounds.

  3. Care

    C.S. Lewis realized that there was someone he had been forgiving his whole life and it was himself. We cut ourselves swaths of Grace. Once we realize that, it is much easier to live the command to “Love your neighbor, as yourself.”

  4. Kris, in New England

    One of the most profound moments in my conversion to Catholicism this past year was the realization that God forgives me everytime I ask for it; and that if my repentence is true in my heart then He will let me thru the pearly gates. I grew up in a Fundamentalist faith that basically taught that God will forgive you when you ask for it BUT … He still reserves the right to say no when the final time comes. I grew up believing that I will never be good enough. Therefore, as a child I translated that to mean I that I was beyond forgiveness because I was such a horribly bad person.

    The fact that God will forgive me and heal me if I genuinely ask for it – has had profound repurcussions throughout my life. I give forgiveness much more willingly than I ever have; and I’ve had some pretty horrible experiences in the past 2 years; so bad that in years past I would never have offered forgiveness.

  5. Missus Wookie

    Very true – I’ve been mulling over something very similar since our worship sharing group last week read Quaker Faith & Practice 21.13

    “When we descend from our towers, and come out from our sanctuaries, and take our place in ordinary homes, and workshops, and are surrounded and jostled by our fellow-creatures, we find that our sensitive souls shrink from some of these contacts: that this man humbles our pride, and that one offends our aesthetic sense: that this woman takes our words amiss, and that one misconstrues and resents our actions. It is so much easier to feel enthusiasm for humanity, than to love our immediate neighbours.

    Phyllis Richards, 1948”

    The point that we offend others was brought up, yes we are all ‘those’

  6. Chris from New Jersey

    Some times when thinking about things like this and how deficient I am (both in an unrealistic assesment of myself and others), and how much I depend on God’s Grace, all I can think is “Thank God for God”.

  7. Chris from New Jersey

    Some times when thinking about things like this and how deficient I am (both in an unrealistic assesment of myself and others), and how much I depend on God’s Grace, all I can think is “Thank God for God”.

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