You Who Are Nursing Grudges and Keeping Silly Quarrels Alive . . . The Time is Short!
As usual, the great cathedral was filled, and 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 had long known, men and women who had come to him with their problems, who had asked him 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, the jealousies and misunderstandings, 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 one separately and alone—
“You who are letting miserable misunderstandings 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;
“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 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, overwhelmingly and 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 church that Sunday morning, people who hadn’t spoken in years suddenly smiled and greeted 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.
“Forgive,” Phillips Brooks urged his congregation. “Forget. Bear with the faults of others as you would have them bear with yours. Be patient and understanding. Life is too short to be vengeful or malicious. Life is too short to be petty or unkind.” Brooks had found just the right combination of words to inspire his listeners, to make them want to get over their resentments and grudges, and patch up their quarrels. His sermon struck a responsive chord in many hearts that day; there were some who afterwards never forgot his words, for those words helped change the course of their lives, and helped bring back the happiness they had so nearly destroyed.
(Quoted in “Light from Many Lamps,” by Lillian Eichler Watson, pp. 198-200.)