Brian Williams and Our Forgiveness Problem

It’s been a tough week for Brian Williams. One of the most recognizable and trusted faces in American media — and just like that — he’s become the crux of countless jokes and memes all over social media. We all had a good laugh at pictures of Williams reporting live from the moon, sitting with Albert Einstein, and even standing with Abraham Lincoln. Twitter blew up with the hashtag #BrianWilliamsMisremembers.

I thought it was all in good fun until I read David Brooks’ Op-Ed yesterday, “The Act of Rigorous Forgiving.” I recommend giving it a good read or two. Last night, it was reported that Williams has been issued a six-month unpaid leave of absence. What Williams did was certainly wrong. He lied. He valued his reputation over his integrity, and his lie caught up with him. They always do.

There are many lessons here. We must learn to be increasingly cautious and careful in a world where what we say and do can blow up on social media. No amount of money could have protected Brian Williams from this public onslaught. The Proverb rings true, “A good name is more desirable than great riches” (Proverbs 22:1). Williams can surely attest to the fact we don’t fully realize the value of a good name until it’s gone.

But the key takeaway from this situation is what Brooks points out so well. Our culture is becoming barbaric in the way we quickly chew up people that fall from our good graces. Social media is a hungry beast, watching carefully for the next public figure it can ridicule, mock and devour.

As believers, we must resist the temptation to join in this culture of unforgiveness. Instead, we should resonate with our Lord who once said, “Let him who has no sin be the first to cast a stone.” Who among us hasn’t spun the truth to make ourselves sound a little more impressive? We have all sinned in similar ways, and we must be careful about jokingly spreading things that hurt another human being, who is not outside the love of God or beyond reconciliation through Christ.

We must be a forgiving people, especially as we prepare for marriage. We think of marriage as a time when we will need ample amounts of love, patience, kindness, etc., which is certainly true, but perhaps prominent in the midst of all of those, we will need hearts that are quick to forgive. Every marriage has its moments of disappointment, hurt and pain. We must not only learn to confess and abandon our own sins against our spouses, but also should cultivate hearts that can forgive when wounded. We must remember our own sins and the grace of God in forgiving them, casting them as far as the east is from the west. Only when we fully grasp God’s forgiveness of us will we start to become the type of forgivers that are ready to be married to someone who still sins.

How do you handle when someone offends you? Do you lash out? Do you shut down? Do you ignore? Do you run away? All of these responses are signs you may need to cultivate forgiveness. Meditate on the forgiving heart of God and ask Him to cleanse your heart from all bitterness and anger. Ask Him to give you a new heart that is quick to forgive even as it has been forgiven. One of the greatest gifts we will ever give our future spouses is our godly capacity to forgive and forget when we’ve been hurt.

About the Author

Andrew Hess

Andrew Hess is the senior editor of ChurchLeaders.com at Outreach Media Group. He teaches Bible and Psychology classes at Colorado Christian University and is a graduate of Denver Seminary. His writing has been featured on The Gospel Coalition, Leadership Journal and Boundless. When not working, Andrew is usually enjoying scenic Colorado, teaching Sunday school, or buying a priceless antique at a local garage sale.