Dawn and I love to travel. We find beautiful vistas at mountain overlooks. I am powerless to stop myself from taking hundreds of very similar pictures of the mountains rolling away into the distance with mist, sunshine, rocks, trees, colorful foliage, rivers or any other feature a person finds in the mountains. It makes me think of this verse:
A person's wisdom yields patience; it is to one's glory to overlook an offense. (Proverbs 19:11 TNIV)
We are in our 25th year together and I am thankful. We have something special. It is special for its value and beauty to me, not for any particular feature of our relationship that nobody else can have. This scripture sentence says volumes about what can make a relationship, whether it's a marriage, a friendship, or any other family connection good. It's in the overlooks.
Ask yourself this: "Can I be patient with the other's flaws?" If you can't chances are you are also not being wise according to Solomon. When I am being wise I am considering my own flaws. I am realizing that the other person in my life is not perfect just as I am not perfect. Chances are we have different imperfections from each other, but that does not make my imperfections any better or more acceptable than the other's. The fact that they are mine makes them look, to me, easier to live with. When I get short fused or demanding with the other, I am simply letting my own folly run away with me, and that too is a flaw. And now for the hard part.
I may be patient when I am wise, but I am glorious if I overlook an offense. What about that other person offends my sensibilities, my sense of order, my feelings of being cared for, my image of goodness, my conception of intelligence? If I can just realize that I am no easier to live with than anyone else and that my own quirks are just as annoying, just as upsetting, just as niggling as anyone else's, I can reach a point of give and take, a place of forgiveness. There are places in conflict resolution for confrontation and compromise, but in our self-centered society we often bypass this first obvious step: to simply choose to overlook something that offends me. Make no mistake, it is a choice, one that must be exercised often, sometimes constantly. We are unique individuals and that means we are different from each other and those differences will feel out of place. It is in the nature of being different.
It's like that mountain overlook. If I could get down into that mountain from my lofty height, I would see the litter left by campers, the droppings left by animals, the dangers, the impassible paths, the holes, rocks, and ruts, the rotting logs. But if my view is to be glorious, from that ridge looking down into the valley, I choose to ignore those trouble spots and see the bigger picture, the majestic panorama of the whole rather than the distraction that the smaller parts can become.
We are called by Solomon to allow our wisdom to shine like a glorious star, to be and, as a bonus, to appear to others to be a wonderful person of depth and beauty. We can be that person. It is in the level of personal stability we can find in living with the differences and the flaws of others. When my friend, spouse, sibling, parent, or adult child becomes an irritant, it's probably more my problem than it is theirs. Often others are just being who they are while I am expecting them to be someone else for my benefit.
Of course some readers will be thinking, "I need to show this to someone else, so they can be wiser and more glorious in their patience and willingness to overlook something." Resist that defensive posture. Instead look at it for what you yourself can gain. Be the example in the relationship, the one who finds personal internal stability in accepting the other. Stand at the overlook and see the majesty of the bigger relational picture rather than allowing yourself to be sidetracked by smaller things. We are eternal beings in a temporary world. All of this is passing away as we speak. When we are weak, or old, or prone to problems these are manifestations of immediacy. Things of the spirit will last. That's where the glorious overlook can be found.
Pastor, Norma Mennonite Church.