To err is human; to forgive is divine.
… Allexander Pope
You must forgive those who transgress against you before you can look to forgiveness from above.
Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us.
… The Lord’s Prayer
Life is short and we have not too much time for gladdening the hearts of those who are travelling the dark way with us. Oh, be swift to love! Make haste to be kind!
… Henri F. Amiel
Life is too short to be little.
… Benjamin Disraeli
There are many fine things which you mean to do some day, under what you think will be more favourable circumstances. But the only time that is surely yours is the present, hence this is the time to speak the word of appreciation and sympathy, to do the generous deed, to forgive the fault of a thoughtless friend, to sacrifice self a little more for others. Today is the day in which to express your noblest qualities of mind and heart, to do at least one worthy thing which you have long postponed, and to use your God-given abilities for the enrichment of some less fortunate fellow traveler. Today you can make your life . . . . significant and worth while. The present is yours to do with it as you will.
In this life, if you have anything to pardon, pardon quickly. Slow forgiveness is little better than no forgiveness.
… Sir Arthur W. Pinero
Around the corner I have a friend,
In this great city that has no end;
Yet days go by, and weeks rush on,And before I know it a year is gone,
And I never see my old friend’s face,
For life is a swift and terrible race.
He knows I like him just as well
As in the days when I rang his bell
And he rang mine. We were younger then,
And now we are busy, tired men:
Tired with playing a foolish game,
Tired with trying to make a name.
“Tomorrow” I say, ‘I will call him Jim,
Just to show that I am thinking of him.”
But tomorrow comes – and tomorrow goes,
And the distance between us grows and grows.
Around the corner – yet miles away . . .
“Here’s a telegram, Sir . . .
“ Jim died today.”
And that’s what we get, and deserve in the end :
Around the corner, a vanished friend.
….. Charles Hanson Towne
As usual, the great church was filled. Phillips Brooks faced the enormous, hushed congregation as he had so many times before, Sunday after Sunday—the expectant, well-dressed congregation waiting for his weekly message.
He looked into the faces of men and women he long had known, men and women who had come to him with their problems, who had asked for his help and guidance. How well he knew what seethed behind the pleasant, smiling masks of their Sunday-best respectability! How well he knew the petty spites that embittered their hearts, the animosities that set neighbor against neighbor, the silly quarrels that were kept alive, he jealousies and misunderstanding, the stubborn pride.
Today his message was for those bitter, unbending ones who refused to forgive and forget. He must make them realize that life is too short to nurse grievances, to harbor grudges and resentments. He would plead for tolerance and understanding, for sympathy and kindness. He would plead for brotherly love.
“Oh, my dear friends!” he said… and it was as though he spoke to each separately and alone :
“You who are letting miserable misunderstanding run on from year to year, meaning to clear them up some day ;
You who are keeping wretched quarrels alive because you cannot quite make up your mind that now is the day to sacrifice your pride and kill them;
You who are passing men sullenly upon the street, not speaking to them out of some silly spite, and yet knowing that it would fill you with shame and remorse if you heard that one of those men were dead tomorrow morning;
You who are letting your neighbor starve, till you hear that he is dying of starvation;
Or letting your friend’s heart ache for a word of appreciation or sympathy, which you mean to give him someday; if you only could know and see and feel, all of a sudden, that “the time is short,” how it would break the spell! How you would go instantly and do the thing which you might never have another chance to do.”
As the congregation poured out of the church that Sunday morning, people who hadn’t spoken in years suddenly smiled and greeted to each other . . . and discovered it was what they had been wanting to do all along. Neighbors who had disliked and avoided each other walked home together . . . and were astonished to find how very much they enjoyed doing it. Many who had been grudging and unkind firmly resolved to be more generous in the future, more considerate of others . . . and all at once felt happier and more content, felt at peace with themselves and the world.
Phillips Brooks had found just the right combination of words to inspire his listeners, to make them want to forget their grudges and patch up their quarrels. His sermon struck a responsive chord in many hearts that day; and there were some who never afterward forgot his words, for they helped change the course of their lives, helped bring back the happiness they had so nearly destroyed.
Forgive, Phillips Brooks urged his congregation. Forget, Bear with the fault of others as you would have them bear with yours. Be patient and understanding. Life is too short to be vengeful and malicious. Life is too short to be petty or unkind. The sermon later appeared in print, and the arc of its influence steadily widened and increased.
Phillips Brooks was one of the America’s greatest preachers. As Rector of Trinity Church in Boston, and later as Bishop of Massachusetts, he delivered many eloquent and memorable sermons. “The Candle of the Lord,” which he preached in Westminster Abbey on July 4, 1879, remains one of the world’s most famous sermons. He was also a distinguished literary personality, a writer of essays and poems. One of his poems was set to music and achieved immortality as the beloved hymn, O Little Town of Bethlehem.”
But of all his prodigious sermons and writings, the selection we have quoted is one of the best known and best remembered. It is so frequently quoted, in print and from the pulpit, that it is familiar to vast number of people; and its influence has been incalculable. The influence continues . . . reminding us that life is short, that we must forget our grudges an grievances, forget and forgive while there still is time.
Don’t wait to patch up that quarrel. Don’t wait to say that kind word, to do that kind deed. The time is short, and tomorrow may be too late!