The expression that inspired the title of this post is a strange but hopefully familiar one: Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face. I like how Wikipedia describes it: a needlessly self-destructive over-reaction to a problem. I’m humbled to think of the many times I’ve done it. Perhaps you have too. It can ruin our day, week, year, and even life if we’re not careful. A great example of this is found in the Old Testament book of Esther.
Haman was the highest official of Xerxes, King of Persia. Everyone literally bowed down to him. And Haman loved it. Then one day, a man named Mordecai remained standing in Haman’s presence. That did not go over well. And it wasn’t a one-time infraction. Mordecai refused to bow before him. Haman couldn’t let it go. Instead of soaking in all the honor he received from everyone else, he nursed the fury, and decided to take action. It wasn’t enough for him to just punish this one man. He decided to annihilate Mordecai’s entire people group: the Jews. A ridiculous – though tragic – overreaction. The plan Haman designed was made public immediately, though it wouldn’t be carried out for nearly a year.
The queen at that time was a woman named Esther. She was Mordecai’s niece and was also a Jew, neither of which Haman knew. At the risk of her own life, Esther went before the king to ask for the salvation of her people. She did it in stages and two of them were private banquets with the king which included Haman.
After the first one, according to Esther 5:9: Haman went out that day happy and in high spirits. But when he saw Mordecai at the king's gate and observed that he neither rose nor showed fear in his presence, he was filled with rage against Mordecai (NIV). Haman went home and shared with his wife and friends all the great things in his life, including his wealth, position, family, and his private luncheon with the King and Queen. Then he said: Yet all this is worth nothing to me, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate" (Esther 5:13 ESV). Sound familiar? How often do we miss out on experiencing the blessings in our lives because we’re angry about something and can’t let it go? Like Haman, we’re only hurting ourselves.
At the suggestion of his wife, Haman built gallows on which to kill Mordecai. It made him feel better, but only for a little while. That very night, the king compelled Haman to publicly and lavishly honor Mordecai before all the people. This was because Mordecai had previously thwarted a plot to assassinate the king but was never acknowledged for it.
Then things got terribly worse for Haman. At the banquet the next day, Queen Esther revealed that Haman was trying to kill her and her people. Guess what happened to Haman? He was hanged (or actually impaled) on the gallows he had built for Mordecai.
It’s easy to look at Haman and think how foolish he was. But if we don’t heed the warning of his demise, we can fall into the same trap. Let’s keep our noses intact and learn to let things go.
Just something I’m trying to remember along the way.