There’s a strange situation that can happen in genetics. A person can be born with a gene that is destructive and harmful and yet it never affects that person directly, but they pass it on to the next generation. These people are known as carriers. They spread the offending gene only when certain conditions are met. For years the dormant gene can lay low and without a medical testing this unusual scenario may not be discovered until a child or grandchild develops symptoms of the hidden disease.
Carriers are interesting to me because they never develop the illness, and yet the potential for great harm lies quietly inside them. This is a simplistic explanation of what a carrier is but it started me thinking about a parallel that might occur in a different realm, not relating to germs and diseases. I think that each of us can potentially be a carrier of things in our hearts that often have grave consequences in the generations that follow whether or not the carrier ever recognizes the danger.
I am talking about carrying an offense. This is a common practice among humans and I have seen it happen time and time again. Wounds and hurts from both the distant past and the near future are often very difficult to conquer and at times they cripple the carrier as well as those to whom the offense is passed.
Please understand that I know how difficult it can be to find healing from hurts. In fact some damaging behaviors inflicted on innocent victims can be devastating and require therapy and help to overcome the shame, rejection and even physical effects. I am in no way trying to minimize the process necessary at times for people to find healing from truly abusive interactions. However, the kind of carriers to which I refer are those who tend to take offense at things even if they are insignificant, and then also make it a point to share the offense with anyone who is willing to listen, passing along the offense like a genetic mutation.
Sometimes it seems like we have a modern epidemic of this type of carrier in our culture. The need to feel validated and understood and even justified in our feelings breeds a sort of ‘us-against-them’ mentality where if you’re not aligning yourself with the correct side you run the risk of becoming ostracized and shunned. I am not speaking hypothetically about these things. I have seen it with my own eyes. I have loved people who couldn’t stand the fact that I refused to pick up their offense and carry it with them. They felt betrayed and rejected by my principled stance and we frequently disagreed on matters of forgiveness, grudges and reconciliation.
When confronted with a loved one who has been hurt by another, the natural response is to be the shoulder to cry on and the listening ear. This is in and of itself not harmful, as long as we also lead our friend to find healing from this wound and not allow them to nurse the offense and rehearse the crime. This is where we struggle. We facilitate the carrier and let them vent without ever counseling them to make it right. But that is the only mature response to a person bearing a grudge. Anything short of this will perpetuate a hurt and infect anyone else who is willing to join the conversation.
But I have good news. There’s a cure for the carrier. A prescription was written thousands of years ago that will help you break the damaging cycle of carrying. The wise author of Proverbs declares that when you overlook an offense you bond a friendship; but when you fasten on to a slight it’s like saying “Good-bye, friend!” If you recognize this tendency in your own life to be a carrier, take a dose of this wisdom. You’ll find it’s not such a bitter pill to swallow, and the curse of carrying that offense will be broken for good!