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.
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