On and on and on

Recently, during some bad winter weather, I was stuck in a traffic jam that looked to be caused by an “inexperienced” driver.” From what I could see the accident had been a matter of too much speed and not enough care on a turn. The effect was miles of stopped traffic on a major vein in the city as police tried to clear up the mess as quickly and safely as they could.

I was in a pensive mood when I got into my car, so this time in the car became a good time for musing. I started thinking about the ripple effects of sin in my life. So often I think of sin as a personal burden, something that touches the sinner and maybe a handful of others. But I’m not so sure that is true. Years ago I was in an abusive relationship. The damage done to me personally was deep and has been long-lasting. But it didn’t end with me. My resulting brokenness led to an inability to maintain certain friendships because of the other person’s continued friendship with the other person. I’ve met a few guys since then, and have often behaved with anger or defensiveness or hurt that had way more to do with my ex than the person I was actually interacting with. I’ve given bad advice to others out of hurt or skepticism or bitterness. God has done much to heal me, and I continue to seek to forgive and be forgiven for that terrible season of life. But the ripple effect of my relationship with my ex has spread much wider than I would ever have imagined.

I wonder how many of my sins have had the same ripple effect in someone else’s world. I am rude or testy or short with someone, which pushes them over the edge and leads to a fight with someone at home, which leads to another argument with someone else, or any other of a number of reactions. Seeing my sin from this perspective makes it all seem much more…selfish. Grave. Destructive.

And yet, I wonder if the same could be true of goodness. If light could spread as easily as darkness. What happens if I really try to bring love or joy or peace to every individual in my day? What happens if I speak good things to other people, if I compliment, or praise someone, or admire them? What if a little positive gossip changes the perspective of the person I’m talking with, who then changes their attitude toward someone, which shines a little needed affirmation into that person’s life? We are all desperate for love, for affirmation. We soak up words of kindness and compliment like sponges; for many of us this need is as fundamental as our need for air.

What if I sought to create ripples of kind words all around me? Would I find myself enveloped by them as well? I wonder how far the effects could spread…

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