Forgiveness solves problems created by pride
By Corrie Lynne Player
Forgiveness is not just for wiping away major hurts, it also works for everyday life, especially in those encounters where nothing is really damaged except pride.
An encounter I call “The Great Tree Fight” happened when my husband and I lived with six of our children on a wooded three acre lot in a suburb of Anchorage, Alaska. The lot was bordered on three sides by dirt roads, so dust plagued us every summer. In an effort to cut down on the grit that billowed with each passing car, we planted quick growing alders along the ditches.
One morning my kids ran in yelling, “Somebody’s chopping our trees!”
I rushed out to find “Grouch,” the man who lived across from us, wielding a chain saw and mowing down the alders from the cross roads to our driveway. I hollered, “What do you think you’re doing?” but he ignored me, so I called the police.
The highway patrolman who responded told me “Grouch” wasn’t actually trespassing, because there was a utility easement, but that he needed a permit to do any work in the right of way.
The next weeks took on a surreal quality. Almost every day a neighbor would call “Did you know that guy is chopping on the Curvell side of your place (which was far enough away that I couldn’t hear the chainsaw)?”
We finally stopped the tree cutting, but then he began digging holes into our side to fill holes in the dirt road (he had plenty of dirt on his own side). I couldn’t sleep; my stomach churned; I developed headaches.
The kids’ and their friends began to harass Grouch, piling branches and rocks in his driveway, throwing trash onto his lawn.
“Let him see how it feels,” growled the brother of my ten year old daughter’s best friend. (Kids think “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” means “Do unto others as they DO unto you.”) Grouch threatened them with a gun.
At this point I realized nothing I did, nothing our friends did, could stop the man’s bizarre behavior. The angrier I became, the worse he acted. It was time to end the war. “Showing him how it felt” certainly didn’t work.
I called a neighborhood meeting where we could all air our concerns and resolve the skirmish. When the meeting took place, I discovered why the fellow acted as he did. He thought the alders obstructed visibility on the road and might scratch passing cars, while I felt those alders shielded our house from dust and screened traffic. We agreed that he could take out the trees closest to the road and leave the tallest that screened the house. I ceased to hate him. Since we moved a year later, we never became friends, but we exchanged hellos and waves at the mall or passing on the roads. And bile no longer seared my throat, nor did pain stab my forehead.
I try to remember the Great Tree Fight whenever somebody behaves in a way I don’t understand. If a co-worker tries to undermine me, says I was out shopping when I went home sick, or that I make personal long distance calls and meddle in areas which aren’t my business, I can defend myself to the boss, but becoming angry with the co-worker and delivering “tit for tat” will only give me a stomach ache.