She was a mid-50’s Latina lady who had been abducted and raped as a little girl. She came me to find forgiveness for her husband. She felt used by him for decades as his own sort of sex slave, with he debasing her while she gave in time after time to make him happy. She despised him and was desperate for a way out of his grasp.

The true grasp was the resentment gripping her heart.

We discussed the complexities of forgiveness, and I made a simple chart for her to fill out:

Two of the sentences she gave me glared at me. Forgiveness means:

  • “I surrender the work of fixing him to the LORD.”
  • “I surrender judgment to the LORD.”

Fixing. Judging. Two sides of the same coin.

Judging is the necessary precursor to fixing. If a doctor or auto mechanic wants to fix, they must first analyze and judge.

The prize? Control.

The opposite of the tree of life ISNT the tree of death — but the tree of awareness. Awareness solves no problems, but simply magnifies them, so that our choices seem more costly.

Both burdens – fixing and judging – demand an analysis, a diagnosis, and a label. These are means to the end of control.

Analyzing, diagnosing, and labeling are avenues to pigeonhole someone into a Narrative that we construct, which keeps us as “Narrative Master,” putting them in our cage. We know the story, now. We control it. I am now incentivized to make sure that every move they now make feeds my carefully constructed, hard earned set of labels.

The Narrative grows with every thought of them. Soon, it is heavy and exhausting to maintain. Every new action must fit in our predetermined framework. The investment in my narrative grows, the capital compounds. The prize of a well-constructed narrative — control — is irresistible.

Once we have them in that tightly constructed narrative box, we can fix them OR judge them.

Fix them when they comply with my Narrative; judge them when they resist — or when my fix fails.

If I fix them, they owe me. If I judge them, well — they owe me.

Both keep me in the place of Narrative Master, and they my little subject rat in a cage, my Narrative Slave who must satisfy their debt to me by repentance of every action in my Narrative in order to regain their freedom from my damnation.

My Narrative Slave now bears the burden of keeping my Narrative propped up. They are the sufferers I judge, trample and use to building a Narrative Plantation on the backs of their Name. Every new action they make, every word they say, must fit my Narrative and keep it alive. With every analytical thought, I whip them into Narrative Submission until it all makes perfect sense.

Its not long before I’ve built a clockwork Narrative Economy with my Narrative Slave at the cost of my subject’s Name. My own economy infects and entagles with the Narratives of those around me, and the debt they must repay compounds. Their Name is the only capital they have from which they will pay the price for my judgment. Their reputation shrinks until they are hardly human. No one wanted that, but it is simply the price of keeping the Economy afloat.

Once an economy is built, abolition gets political.

Far too much invested to simply let the resentment go. To change my Narrative. To assume good of them. To drop the judgment of that person who owes me so much, who wounded me so badly.

My pride, my Narrative of them, and finally, My narrative of Life itself has all become intertwined. My Story of life and justice and faith and meaning and the Divine is all at stake.

Letting resentment go would be far too costly. So costly that most people choose to harbor their resentment, or nurse their grudge. Those are verbs that require energy and payment to sustain. A Narrative Empire requires maintenance. The land on which our Narrative Slaves work to feed us demands payment. That maintenance, however, is far less expensive than abolition.

Forgiveness would be too costly. Its why we continue to feed harmful stories, insist on labels, and deepen our judgmental analyses.

He is a narcissist.
She is crazy.
He only married me for the sex.
She is out to get me.

Soon, I need my enemy to be evil just to satisfy the demands of the Narrative I am commanding. My assumptions jaded, my new mental economy no longer any has other sustenance, no flexibility, no life. No gratitude for the one made in the imago dei. My narrative of life and meaning and justice and hope itself is infected, becoming sicker and smaller by the day, with no way out but to keep the story going.

And in that day, I find my own self trapped in a cycle of slander, unable to break free, for I have no other means to build a Narrative Life but on the backs of those whose stories I refuse to liberate.

He who walls others out, walls himself in.

The true slave is the slaveowner.
The true rat in the cage — is me.

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