My friend John is a proud man. Built his electrical contracting business from the ground up, He’s a good husband and father. John has reason to be proud. He worked hard for his success, but he assumes others think likewise. John is steadfast and constant as the Northern Star, but he is also inflexible and intolerant of change. When others change, John sees this as being untrue to self, and sometimes, a betrayal of him. Through conversation I discovered John sees his inflexibility as part of his strength in spite of some estranged relationships. After all, it is closely related to the determination that built his success.
My friend Mary teaches 6th grade here in town. 6th graders are a tricky bunch, but Mary does well with them. Not perfect, but better than average. She is night and day different from John. She is forgiving and tolerant. Mary has tried to be sterner in her life, but it’s not in her. As her students change, she changes with them. She is endlessly patient. In spite of her professional successes, Mary views her inability to be stricter as a flaw in her character. She told me she used to pray for a “sterner spine.”
Both John and Mary are wrong.
It is not a flaw to allow those close to you to make mistakes, to change and grow. Inflexibility is the flaw. In most cases tolerance and forgiveness nourish the vine of affection. Inflexibility kills it. Life is so much more pleasant, and relations so much richer when we exist in the Garden of Forgiveness.