Of all the things we are called to do on earth, perhaps one of the most significant is to give and seek forgiveness.
Our lives, from cradle to grave, are strung together by events that shape who we are, who we love and how we see the world. With each new encounter or event we either grow our sense of good will and well being or we grow our sense of cynicism and disappointment with the world and the people around us.
We mistakenly believe that a good relationship is one in which we are never let down, hurt or betrayed; when in fact, the strongest relationships are those that have weathered hurt and even betrayal but were restored and strengthened by forgiveness.
True forgiveness is supernatural. True forgiveness changes both the giver and receiver, leaving both with newfound wisdom and a greater capacity to love. Sadly, too often we settle for the very human and very ineffectual expression of apology. “I’m sorry” does precious little to set things right. Usually, after a breakdown mended with an “I’m sorry”, relationships remain strained and the bond between parties diminished. The breach of trust leaves a permanent scar that changes how the relationship is viewed and valued.
“I’m sorry” is merely the description of how you feel when you’ve done something wrong. It does nothing to promote healing for the injured party. Rarely does it move them toward a true desire to forgive you.
Perhaps the reason many relationships remain unhealed is because the one who caused the offense offered an apology… and nothing more. Arguably, even the most sincere “I’m sorry” can be more like gasoline on a fire than a remedy for a broken relationship. Have you ever noticed that when the apology fails to elicit forgiveness it actually fuels frustration and deepens the rift? “I said I was sorry! What else do you want from me??!!” At best, telling someone you’re sorry will result in putting the matter behind you, but it will never lead to full restoration and forgiveness. Not the supernatural kind, anyway.
The Bible teaches us to forgive just as we have been forgiven and that whoever is forgiven much loves much. It’s through seeking forgiveness and being forgiven that our capacity for love is increased. It’s when we understand and experience true forgivenessthat we gain the mind-blowing perspective of God’s amazing love.
Love and relationships hard won are invariably much stronger than those that go untested. It’s in the choosing to forgive that the quality and depth of our ability to love is reckoned. It’s in acknowledging our own prideful, selfish propensity to wound others that we find the humility that is essential to seek true forgiveness.
Think about it. “I’m sorry” can only be answered with “It’s okay.” or “Forget it.”. But if it was “okay” there wouldn’t be so many hard feelings in the first place. When someone says, “I’m sorry” we have one of two options: 1. Let the person of the hook or 2. Come off as a stubborn jerk who holds a grudge. Yet, rarely does hearing someone express how sorry they feel relieve us of the sorrow and pain of the wrong done to us. Ultimately it’s pride, not forgiveness that leads us to choose option one and ‘let it go’. It’s really our desire to be seen as the bigger person that leads us to reject option two. But, in both choices, we’re still left with the bad feelings we had when we the apology started. Why?
Pride and selfishness block the path of forgiveness.
Feeling sorry is only the beginning. I need to regard your feelings above my own and ASK you to forgive me for the wrong I did that hurt you… no matter what my reasons or excuses might have been. Truly, there is something miraculous that happens when we bow low before someone who was hurt or offended by something we did. When we acknowledge their pain without defending our actions we open the way to forgiveness. When we accept responsibility and humbly ask them to forgive us it’s usually a game changer. “I hurt you. It was selfish and immature and I’m so sorry. Would you please forgive me?” In these moments of humility we grow. We see ourselves more clearly and face the reality that we aren’t nearly as awesome as we’d like to be. Seeing our missteps illuminates the better Way going forward.
And what about the wounded party? To sincerely hear that your hurt is understood is the greatest salve in the human experience. Moreover, when the one who hurt us takes responsibility for their actions it exposes our own sin of standing in harsh judgment of them. One moment we’re demanding our pound of flesh as payment and the next we stand humbled and grieved by our own angry heart. We WANT to forgive. Seeing our loved one is sincerely and humbly taking responsibility for what they did makes us want to set them free and erase all the terrible thoughts and feelings we’ve had since the incident took place.
Forgiveness is a beautiful sacrifice of love that blesses both giver and receiver alike.
And what of those who won’t forgive? Sadly, there are some. They live lives that are dry, brittle, bitter and alone. They trust no one. They love no one. They demand recompense but reject reconciliation. Exacting payment but living in perpetual poverty of the soul.
Christian, the next time you feel sorry for something you said or did, don’t stop short with a simple apology. Bow low and fully acknowledge the impact of your actions. Then, ask them if they would be willing to forgive you. When they do not only will you both be free of the offense, your relationship will be stronger and you’ll be better at loving… everyone.
“Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Luke 7:47
”Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” Colossians 3:13
In His love and service,