But whoever shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

That—from Matthew 18:6 of the King James version of the bible, as I understand it—provided the genesis for the “millstone around my neck” idiom. Ah, what a pleasant thought, offering hope and succor for the less fortunate among us. Right. Oh, well.

But it’s that millstone, that unknown or unremembered offense against someone who apparently knows and remembers the offense that I don’t, that bedevils me.

At what point do we stop holding grudges against people for mistakes they do not even realize they made? When do we decide either to confront and discuss the offense head-on or simply let it fade, impotent to bother us, into the past? When, indeed?

Perhaps there is no when; perhaps, instead, the offense remains indelibly etched into the offended person’s psyche so that no amount of acknowledgement and no amount of regret can erase it. The offense, or the memory of what one believes to be an offense, becomes a millstone that sinks the relationship between individuals just as surely as drowning in the sea would do.

Worrying about a perceived degradation of a relationship—and assuming there is, in fact, such a deterioration—without taking proactive steps to inquire, explore, discover the reasons for the dissolution of a relationship is pointless, isn’t it? Indeed it is. But I think we all shy away from pulling at the scab of old wounds or, worse, pursuing what turns out to be an imaginary crack in the foundation of a marriage of the minds.

We’re all too thin-skinned, but at the same time we’re equally reckless with others’ feelings as we are protective of our own.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
This entry was posted in Emotion, Friendship, Philosophy. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Millstone

  1. Holly, your three related activities are intriguing. Each one, in its own right, could readily spawn a story in need of telling. I certainly understand your question: “how do you forgive?” That question becomes even harder if asked by the one in need of forgiveness, hoping to get a convincing answer that confirms forgiveness will be forthcoming. There, too, is a story begging to be written.

  2. Holly Forrest says:

    Reading your post comes on the heels of three other related activities:

    1. Listening to Annie Lennox sing the haunting “Why,” pondering its import for my own life. In case you’re not familiar with it, it begins:
    “How many times do I have to try to tell you
    that I’m sorry for the things I’ve done.
    But when I start to try to tell you
    that’s when you have to tell me this trouble has only just begun.
    I tell myself too many times
    why don’t you learn to keep your mouth shut.
    I hurt so bad to hear the words that keep on falling from your mouth, falling from your mouth,”

    2. Discussing my writing with a close friend, who responds favorably to one story that is poignant, and recoils from another she labels “part of that whole fire and brimstone thing from my youth.”

    3. Discussing marital misdeeds with a neighbor, who comments “you forgive, but you never forget.” I wonder, but do not ask “how do you forgive?”

    Both you and Juan provide some very valuable philosophical food for thought. As always, with your writing, I find myself wondering about the inspiration, the events that precipitated the passage. Particularly given the notion that the offender is not even aware of the atrocity they’ve committed. That makes things extra tricky, doesn’t it?

  3. Incredibly insightful comments, Juan! I did not know the etymology of “memory;” that’s interesting and now I fell compelled to read Graves’ book, or at least peruse it. Thank you, my friend; as always, you give me more to ponder, and that is good to exercise my mind!

  4. jserolf says:

    Great post, and it has caused me some deeper thinking and feeling. Where matters of harm come and go, the deepness of the wound is criteria for decision, and often that comes via two forms: What is private and what is public.

    In the former, only one or two are affected, but in the latter more are involved and thereby stretches into and increases the deliberate nature of the offense and the intent.

    Intent, denoting design, plan, and purpose.

    There’s also something to consider: the victim or victimization. Often we victimize ourselves by self-placement or continuance of whatever relationship exists, hence, the expression, “fool me once shame on you; fool me twice then shame on me.”

    And then the value of the relationship. If a relationship is valueless to at least one, or if the relationship is tenuous anyway, then there is no basis for maintaining it; in fact, it likely places one in a situation ripe for abuse or victimization.

    Memories can be strange things. It comes from the goddess name of Mammon and Robert Graves does some good discussion on this in his book “Mammon and the Black Goddess.” Memories can nag at us; they are valuable to us because they serve to guide and protect.

    I dunno, but I love your post….and will likely be thinking about it all week.

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