Several weeks ago I had a conversation with a friend about an automobile accident in which she was involved. The accident was not her fault – in fact the other driver was being oblivious to those around him and plowed right into her. My friend and the other driver waited for the police to arrive to complete a report. That was when she learned about a law in New York of which neither of us were aware. In New York, even if the accident is clearly one driver’s fault, both drivers are expected to contribute to a portion of the costs of repairs. The non-fault driver must pay a small percentage even though the accident was in no way her fault.
As we talked about this law, we were initially outraged. The law hardly seemed fair. If someone side-swipes you, runs a stop sign, or hits you while distracted, why should you be responsible for someone else’s fault. We hypothesized about whether there might have been some way for her to give the driver a wider berth to avoid the accident – basically being a better defensive driver. But we both could imagine situations in which there is no way to see an accident coming. To us, the law just did not seem fair.
Today, as I was thinking about Lent and forgiveness, I was reminded of my friend’s accident. The more I thought about New York’s rule, the more I realized that New York may be on to something. You see, whenever we talk about forgiveness, we often think of ourselves needing to forgive someone else for something they have done to us. Letting go of anger is an important step toward meaningful forgiveness. But solely focusing on the actions of the other lets us off the hook from thinking about the ways we may have contributed to problem that needs forgiving. I am not suggesting that the blame is 50-50. But the blame might be 90-10 or even 80-20. Anyone who has been married or who has navigated close friendships or family relationships knows that even when we are totally in the right, there is always a little blame to be shared by all.
As we start our Lenten journey, I invite you to consider taking an inventory of those relationships in your life that need mending or healing. As you prayerfully consider those relationships, review the ways in which you have participated in the relationship and what ways you might hold some of the fault for the brokenness of the relationship. The work will not be easy – we like being right so much that we may not be able to really consider mending those relationships. But as you journey through the complicated web of fault and forgiveness, consider praying the Lord’s Prayer again: forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. My prayers are with you on the journey.