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"I wouldnít trust him as far as I could throw him," she said to me. "Oh," I said, "and whyís that?" and she proceeded to tell me of a bad experience she had had with him about something. It would appear that the temptation to cover a personís entire life with a blanket of distrust on the basis of one bad experience (or several bad experiences in the same area) is almost too strong to resist. We got into a lengthy discussion about this person who had been our mutual friend. I donít remember how it went exactly but I know the direction it went and cutting out what would have been most of the plain and useful verbal moves on both sides weíre left with something like this.
"You mean you wouldnít trust him in anything?" The hurt was still acute and what I got was a re-rehearsal of how wrong the wrong had been and then, "how can you trust a person like that?"
"You think heíd hurt his children or run around on his wife?
"Good heavens no."
"So there are things about him that you could bet on?"
"He was way out of line in this matter; he shouldnít have treated you that way but youíre not prepared, are you, to blot out all the good things in his life?"
A hesitant and very slightly irritated, "No, but right now Iím not prepared to trust him again."
"I understand, but heís been a good friend to us down the years, hasnít he?"
"(Another sigh) Yes, I remember when..." and she told of a great kindness. More than one. Now the tone was softer.
Finally, "Iím sure youíll work this out with him, a step at a time."
Still, itís true that some of us by repeated failures show that we canít be trusted with money. Some of us canít be trusted in our relationship with the opposite sex and some of us donít know how to bridle our tongue. Some of us are smug when successful or abusive when given authority or lazy when people are depending on us to get things done and on and on and on. And those that really do watch out for us in a discreet, strong and loving way are to be treasured even if their presence sometimes irks us.
In Romans 12:3 Paul thought it was vitally important that we recognise our limits. People are very wise as well as humble if for the sake of others they stay clear of situations they know theyíre weak in. Should they seek growth and the exercise of virtue in those areas of weakness? They should seek maturity as a whole person; but if they know their limitations itís good for them as well as others that they engage themselves in their areas of strength until they have reason to feel (under God) the ability to engage in other areas of service.
What weíre tempted to do with a single individual weíre tempted to do with a community of people.
Many years ago I went looking for a room to rent in Birmingham, England. In several parts of the city I saw signs outside the rental accommodation: No Irish! Some poor soul had had enough with former Irish tenants and had shut the door to all of us. Shame on those Irish that provoked that kind of thing. Shame too on those who shut us all out because some were a real pain in the neck. Though I can easily understand why the property owners would react the way they did, they robbed themselves of the benefit that another kind of Irish would bring. And when we close down on a whole believing community because someone mistreated us or one of their preachers went whacko, Iím certain that weíve blundered at numerous levels. (If a strong pattern of mistreatment emerges itís (past) time to examine underlying "causes".)
"Thatís all very well, but you donít know how badly hurt Iíve been." Oh, I know I have a comfortable life and that things with me and mine (while they arenít perfect) are fine indeed, so Iím not about to compare myself with many poor souls that I know personally and a host Iíve heard of. I know too that Iíve deeply hurt many in my life but I must confess that Iíve been deeply hurt as well. All that to say, I would guess that the vast majority of us shouldnít make an excuse out of how badly weíve been hurt when weíre trying to justify our refusal to put ourselves at risk again. Or to admit that the offender is trustworthy in many other areas. Maybe itíll help if we self-examine and know that despite our over-all trustworthiness there are areas we wouldnít trust ourselves "as far as we could throw a hippo."