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Forgiveness and Standing Silent Before the Pilates of this World

Posted: March 24, 2016 by Rob Voyle

Over the past few weeks I have taught several Teach Them How To Forgive
workshops and retreats.

One of the big challenges to forgiving comes when the person we feel resentful
toward is a bully and is likely to continue their hostile behavior. People will
get caught in the trap of saying, "I will forgive them when they change" or "I
will be happy when they will change."

In both scenarios the resentful person has placed their well-being in the hands
of someone who has clearly demonstrated that they don't care how hurtful they
are being. While I am not fond of calling anyone a swine, I think this is what
Jesus meant when he said "Don't cast your pearls before swine."

Never entrust your happiness, or what you deeply value about yourself, to
someone who cannot respect or value you as you do.

It is interesting to note that resenting doesn't get the bully to change. In
fact, I must confess to being a really pitiful resenter. For the past few months
I have been deeply resentful to Donald Trump and Senator Cruz, and they haven't
changed a bit. Perhaps if I was an expert resenter they would have changed...
But perhaps it won't because some world class resenters have tried and failed

I recall Jesus saying: "Forgive them because they are ignorant." Actually that
is an exaggeration on my part. He said to forgive them because they didn't know
what they were doing, which is a statement about their behavior whereas calling
them ignorant or idiots is a critique of their identity and personhood, not
simply their behavior.

I also wonder about the utter stupidity of arguing with an ignorant person. I
have found it impossible to win an argument with someone whose brain is at half
mast. Only a fool argues with a fool, so it might be safer to simply say they
don't know what they are doing.

Alternatively you could deal with a bully by becoming a bigger bully. However
that is also foolishness, because it will fill the world with the very thing we

So how are we to deal with the bullies in our lives? Especially the ones we will
continue to encounter.

Personally I want to be compassionate. In the Appreciative Way I think of
compassion having three faces, tenderness, fierceness, and mischievousness.

Being compassionate with bullies typically requires fierceness or
mischievousness. Being fierce is not about being angry it is about a state of
being that is beyond emotion in which I single-mindedly pursue a just future.
This just future is also a safe future.

One of the resources many participants have found helpful to move beyond the
stuck resentful place to the fierce place is the story of Jesus before Caiaphas
and Pilate. For the most part Jesus was fiercely silent. He does not engage in
an argument. Nor does he waste energy in a futile attempt to get Pilate to
change or stop what he was about to do.

While physically vulnerable to Pilate, Jesus never allowed himself to be
emotionally or spiritually vulnerable to Pilate. As we know from the rest of the
story Pilate had Jesus crucified, but Pilate did not take his life. Jesus, not
Pilate, offered his life to the Father on the cross.

What would it look like and feel like to be emotionally and spiritually silent
before the bullies in your life?

Take a moment and imagine what that would be like...
It may not change the bully but it will offer a profound freedom for you.

My prayer this Easter is that we would find new life in the fierce silence of
Jesus before Pilate and be likewise in the midst of the bullies in our lives and

Rob Voyle
Director, Clergy Leadership Institute

P.S. Please let me know if you are interested in sharing in my act of cultural
sedition and hosting a Forgiveness Training program in your church.

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About the Author

Rob Voyle

Rob Voyle

The Rev. Dr. Rob Voyle is a leader in the development and use of appreciative inquiry in church and coaching settings.

Rob's Approach to Training

  • Helpful: Training must provide practical, sustainable solutions for today's challenges.
  • Humorous: Creativity and humor go together as people enjoy new insights.
  • Healing: I create opportunities for people to experience transformational insights that lead to new ways of living, working, and being in the world.

>>   See more on Rob's
        Helpful, Humorous, Healing
        approach to training.