For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15)

Forgiving is hard. It is not easy to forgive or forget when you feel you have been belittled or treated with a lack of respect. You have to be a special person to forgive. A follower of Christ Jesus. Yes, a Christian.

People are taught and believe that calling you “sir,” “ma’am,” “Mr.,” “Mrs.,” or “Miss” shows respect. People who work in customer-service jobs or law-enforcement positions are taught to mindlessly say or use these terms. Things like: “Sir, how can I help you?” or “Sir, have you been drinking?” But it is not what you say, it’s what happens after you say it that determines if you are authentic.

Let me tell you about a situation I faced recently here at the Atlanta Federal Prison Camp. It’s Friday afternoon about 3 p.m. All of a sudden I feel this horrible pain in my right side while I am sitting in my dorm. It’s the worse pain I have ever felt. It is so bad I can’t lie down and I can barely stand. The pain is so bad I start to perspire.

With the help of one of the inmates and a prison official, I am taken to the camp medical facility. There we are met by the nurse, nurse assistant, nurse practitioner, or whatever title she goes by. I have a few names I could call her but none of them would be complimentary. I am so thankful that the Lord held my tongue in check.

Anyway, this person said, “Sir, when it’s late in the afternoon like this, there may be nothing that can be done. You may have to just wait until sick call on Monday morning.” Keep in mind, the pain started about 10 minutes before I was taken to her for help. I can barely stand or sit. So instead of trying to determine the cause of my pain, she wants to lecture me on the times it is convenient for her to treat me and the times it is not convenient. She went on to say “pain is not considered an emergency.” I guess she was right. My pain was not an emergency to her, only me. That’s why I was there. I was suffering pain!

I did mention it was Friday afternoon, didn’t I? She kept mentioning to another person, who worked with her in the medical office, that she needed to go home. To get away from the office. That it had been a long and crazy week. And it kept getting crazier by the minute.  She kept implying that she had more important things to do. I guess treating an inmate for a “non emergency” was not important. After all, I was only in pain. It is not considered a medical emergency to her.

I guess when she called me “sir” that was to show respect. But she gets an “F” for the rest. She flunks because of her attitude, lack of respect, lack of empathy or caring. So the customer-service training worked. She knew to say “sir.” But she failed as a Christian, as a human being, and as a loving or caring child of God.

Before Jesus helped me turn my life around I lived by a motto of my own: “Forgiveness is the gift of God. I am not God, I don’t forgive and I don’t forget.” In those days, she would have gotten a piece of my mind.

I am so glad the Lord has turned my life around. Because now I can forgive her. And I will work on forgetting, Because the ultimate act of forgiveness was shown by Jesus at his crucifixion when he said, “Father forgive them; for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:24)

Besides forgiveness, I will pray for her. I will pray that God comes into her life. Pray that she accepts Jesus Christ as her Lord and Savior. Pray that Jesus helps her with the issues that are negatively affecting her. Pray that the Lord finds her a career or a purpose in life that will be pleasing to her and serves God’s will. Something that will bring meaning to her life, rather than just a paycheck.

Oh, I almost forgot. Her diagnosis of my problem? Hip pain. Why? She don’t know, she don’t care. The next step in treatment? Sick call on Monday morning. The good news? She won’t be at sick call. Hey, I feel better already!

Bernard Addison is serving 46 months for Conspiracy to Commit Mail Fraud. Questions or comments can be sent to or to:

Bernard Addison/ 44863-074/ FPC-Atlanta; Dorm D/ P.O. Box 150160/ Atlanta, GA 30315


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