“The art of being wise is in knowing what to overlook” – William James, American psychologist, philosopher and physician.

By Charles W. Sidoti, BCC

The above quotation penetrates to the very heart of the way in which God sees us, which, over and above all else, is with an attitude of love, “…for God is Love” (1 John 4: 8). It is important to realize that an inseparable ingredient in that love is mercy. In mercy God patiently overlooks many of our faults. Rabbi Akiva Feinstein, contributing author in my first book, Living at God’s Speed, Healing in God’s Time, explains:

“During our relatively short lives, God is patient with us. A particularly strong proof of God’s patience is the fact that our lives are sustained even when we do wrong. Imagine a universe where there is absolutely no margin for error, where punishment is instantaneous and total. Thankfully, that isn’t the world we live in. God is graciously patient and merciful with us, preserving our lives even when our actions hit way off the mark, so we have time to come to deeper realizations, make amends, and return to a straighter way.”

God’s patient way of interacting with us has the effect of being generative. Like the sun that draws life from the earth, God’s love nurtures and draws us forward, encouraging our spiritual growth and healthy human development even when our actions “miss the mark.” I once heard it said that at least part of what it means to love someone is to “will what is truly best for them.” Sometimes this means our overlooking their faults and having a generative attitude toward the other, like God has toward us.

In one of the Eucharistic Prayers used during the Catholic Mass the priest says, “Do not consider what we truly deserve, but grant us your forgiveness” (Eucharistic Prayer I). Perhaps more than being a request, this prayer is an acknowledgement of the way in which God relates to us. The following verses from Psalm 103 beautifully describe God’s loving attitude toward us:

“The Lord is merciful and gracious; slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger for ever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor requite us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust”(Psalm 103: 8-14).

The importance of God’s merciful love communicated to us in this Psalm cannot be overstated.  It is very important for us to remember that God’s way of looking at us is very heavily weighted with mercy, loving kindness, and forgiveness. God interacts with us in our lives in such a way that “…mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2: 13).

An inseparable part of living an authentic spiritual life is that we increasingly learn to treat others in the way that God treats us. In other words, we are to love others as God loves us. Jesus is very clear in regard to how we can accomplish this. “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6: 36 – 37).  If we are to be compassionate as God is compassionate, it is critical that we reflect upon our own image of God, our own understanding of how God loves. If our intention is to imitate God, then our understanding of the way in which God behaves toward us will be reflected in our treatment of others. What type of behavior is it that we attribute to God that we wish to emulate in our own lives? What do we personally believe about God? In regard to the words of the referenced quotation, do we really believe that God overlooks our faults? Or do we have a different way of understanding God? Donald P. Gray in, Jesus the Way to Freedom, challenges us to think about what we believe about God when he asks:

“Do we really believe that God is love? Or have we learned to fear this loving and gracious father? Have we come to see the Son as love and the Father as the one who settles accounts, the one who demands that justice be satisfied, the one who works his wrath? Jesus is the revelation of God’s love and graciousness. He came to show us the Father’s compassionate care for us. “He who sees me sees him who sent me” (John 12:45). The Father is not justice and wrath and the Son love. The Father’s love is revealed in the Son.  The Son was given to us by the Father’s love so that we might give up fear. There is no fear in love. Jesus came into the world because we are so wrong about God and because that wrongness is destroying us. The father is not our enemy. If we think that we are wrong. The Father is not intent on trying, testing and tempting us. If we think that we are wrong.”

Gray explains so well that, for Christians, Jesus is the revelation, the incarnation, of God’s love. It is a love that, to use Rabbi Feinstein’s words once again, “patiently overlooks our many faults so we have time to come to deeper realizations, make amends, and return to a straighter way.” The way that Jesus looked upon and treated people during his life on earth is the way in which God, whom Jesus called Father, looks upon us.

I once participated in a very practical and eye-opening spiritual exercise that can be helpful in getting at least some sense of how our love compares to God’s love. You may be familiar with it, as it is commonly used in retreat settings and in homilies. It is to read the selection from 1st Corinthians that speaks about the excellence of the gift of love, substituting the word love with your own name. It would read like this.

Chuck is patient and kind; Chuck is not jealous or boastful; he is not arrogant or rude.  Chuck does not insist on his own way; he is not irritable or resentful; he does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.  Chuck bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (1st Corinthians 13: 4-7).

When we experience the merciful, abundant love of God in our own hearts it is that same love that will be communicated in our relationships with others. We will then, more consistently, as it is written in the Prayer of St. Francis, be an “instrument of God’s peace.” We will see ourselves differently as well. Able to be gentler with ourselves, we will finally begin to love ourselves as God loves us. The spiritually enlightened person, realizing how God overlooks his or her own faults, knows intuitively that while some things demand our immediate attention, at times even our correction, the art of being wise, more often than not, is in knowing what to overlook.

The Contemplative Connection: The unfathomable wisdom and mercy of God is revealed in that God overlooks so many of our faults throughout our lifetime. Ask God to help you extend that same merciful love toward yourself and toward others.


This article is a sample from my newest book “Simple Contemplative spirituality.” Click below to view and / or purchase on the publishers websitehttp://amordeus.com/giftShopProductDetails.aspx?itemID=520 

Visit my blog “Finding God in Daily Life” to read more articles: https://sidoticharles.wordpress.com/


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