How little daily annoyances can teach us about forgiveness
A Reflection for the Memorial of St. Clare, Virgin
“Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him?” (Mt 18:21)
I feel like this happens to me a lot. I’m in my car, waiting to make a left turn. The green arrow lights up and the lead car crawls through the intersection like a snail. I get stuck waiting for the next green arrow.
Or I’m at the grocery store and someone ahead of me is arguing about an expired coupon. I need to get home quickly—or oftentimes, I actually don’t—and I just get upset because it’s taking too long.
Or I get home and discover the takeout order is wrong. Or our Internet goes out and we can’t stream “So You Think You Can Dance.” Or the podcast I want to listen to on my walk doesn’t download.
These little annoyances drive me nuts. I used to say stuff to myself like, “First world problems, man. Relax.” Or, “Talk about privilege.” Sometimes, I’d go all out and quote Scripture to myself, “They know not what they do.”
That helped a little. Lately, though, I’ve been trying to think about these annoyances in terms of forgiveness. The little stuff, I just try to forgive it as fast as I can. I don’t need to wait for someone to ask to be forgiven.
And yeah, sometimes it’s really no one’s fault. But I think of it as forgiveness anyway.
The little stuff, I just try to forgive it as fast as I can. I don’t need to wait for someone to ask to be forgiven.
I admit that I’m upset, take a deep breath, shrug my shoulders and try to move on. “What are you going to do?” I don’t want to be a person who obsesses about little things.
I can’t imagine Jesus getting upset over the small stuff. At the Last Supper, I don’t think Jesus said anything like, “Merlot? Are you kidding me?”
Obviously, the point of the Last Supper was not the variety of the wine. And making a green light is not what my life is about.
I’d say St. Clare of Assisi, whose feast we celebrate today, had the little stuff pretty much under control. She left the comfort of her noble family and founded the Poor Clares, an order of contemplative nuns that embrace poverty, chastity and obedience. St. Clare and her sisters did not eat meat, did not wear shoes and lived a mostly silent life in their humble dwelling.
Once, a heavy door came off its hinges and fell on top of St. Clare. The sisters were terrified she would be crushed. But when they stormed over and lifted the door off of her, St. Clare was fine. She said the door could not have weighed more than a blanket.
I want to be like St. Clare. It might sound silly to compare forgiving these little annoyances with St. Clare’s strict austerity. But I believe little self-denials form habits that will help me become a better follower of Christ. Shrugging off the small stuff can help me focus on what’s more important, like loving my neighbor.