‘It Is Beauty to Pass Over Transgression’
THERE are many kinds of beauty, all of which in one way or another bring delight to humankind. There are things that are beautiful to the sight: beautiful rivers, valleys and mountains, the various kinds of flowers and birds, and comely people. Love of beauty in women accounts for a multimillion-dollar cosmetics industry.
Many also are the things of beauty to our sense of hearing. There is melodious and harmonious music, the song of birds, the rustle of leaves in the breeze, the babbling of a brook. The cultured and well-trained voice is also a thing of beauty. Combining beauty of sound and of movement are certain ballets.
But the highest form of beauty is beautiful deeds: deeds that appeal to the moral sense, that appeal to one’s ideals, deeds that delight the heart of man. These are properly described as beautiful because, as the dictionary defines it, beauty is “the qualification of high order for delighting the eye or the aesthetic, intellectual or moral sense” of man. It is this kind of beauty that is referred to in the ancient Biblical proverb: “The insight of a man certainly slows down his anger, and it is beauty on his part to pass over transgression.”—Prov. 19:11.
No doubt one reason why passing over transgression appears beautiful is that it denotes emotional maturity. It reveals ability to do the wise and difficult thing, control one’s emotions under stress, instead of following the line of least resistance by responding in kind. Just as a physically well-formed person is beautiful, so is an example of moral strength. It appears beautiful because it is a form of generosity.
If passing over transgression is beautiful, could it be that failure to do so might well appear otherwise? It most certainly could, as the following experience shows: It was a sunny summer Sunday afternoon as an elderly couple were walking down one of Brooklyn’s streets. Looking up, they saw a teen-ager on a bicycle coming directly for them. It was not until he was right upon them that he suddenly stopped. Annoyed at the youth’s lack of manners, the elderly gentleman pushed the teenager away with his foot, whereupon the youth jumped off his bicycle, doubled his fists and threatened to beat up the elderly gentleman. At that his wife, in a commanding tone, said to the teen-ager: “Show respect for an old man!” With that the youth climbed on his bicycle and rode off.
This true-life incident well illustrates the fact that a failure to pass over a transgression can at times result in something that is quite lacking in beauty. Needless to say, the elderly gentleman felt sheepish, embarrassed, as he did not welcome warding off the blows of an angry teenager. But how much better an appearance he would have made, both to his wife and to the teen-ager, had he simply passed over the transgression! It would have had a measure of beauty about it.
The Bible gives us many examples illustrating the principle that it is beauty to pass over a transgression. Of course, the foremost example is none other than Jehovah God, for of him the psalmist wrote: “He himself well knows . . . that we are dust.”—Ps. 103:14.
The ability to pass over transgression is not something that we are born with. It must be worked at. Children, as a rule, quickly want to retaliate, and so their parents must teach them not to be vindictive but to pass over transgression. And in particular do adults who are introverted or touchy need to be on guard. When transgressed against they should call to mind the wise counsel: “Do not say: ‘Just as he did to me, so I am going to do to him. I shall repay to each one according to his acting.’”—Prov. 24:29.
This evidently is what Jesus Christ had in mind when he said in his Sermon on the Mount: “Whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other also to him.” (Matt. 5:39) This counsel has been criticized by many because of its being misunderstood as teaching pacifism, but not so. When one is struck a blow calculated to harm one, it would be folly to welcome more injury. The sensible thing to do would be to take flight or seek to protect oneself. In fact, one has an obligation to himself and his loved ones to take such a course. But when one is jeered or has insults heaped upon him because of being a follower of Jesus Christ, figuratively slapped on the right cheek, then the noble course of wisdom is to be kind and mild-tempered. This the other person could construe as turning the other cheek. Such is the course Jesus took, for of him we read that “when he was being reviled, he did not go reviling in return,” but turned the other cheek as it were.—1 Pet. 2:23.
Of course, one should not read more into one Biblical principle than the rest of the Scriptures warrant. To pass over transgression does not mean to condone serious sins or crimes. The Bible strongly condemns those who connive at wrongdoing.—Ps. 50:18; Isa. 5:23.
Today, more than ever before, people manifest the spirit of vindictiveness. They are quick to retaliate and often respond not only in kind but with added interest. Popular opinion is prone to consider weak and foolish those who pass over transgression, but not so. It is a manifestation of strength to do so, and also of wisdom as well as of generosity; truly a thing of beauty. Dedicated Christian ministers in particular should at all times seek to manifest the beauty of passing over transgression. For in this way they can bring honor to their heavenly Father, even as Jesus Christ said: “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in the heavens.”—Matt. 5:16.