When I was growing up, if we three siblings mistreated each other, my Dad would make us tell one another we were sorry and that we loved each other — whether we meant it or not. I know this, because I didn’t always mean what I said. (Sorry, Dad. And, I mean it.) I remember one time my brother and I got tickled because I didn’t pause between the two statements. My apology came out “I’m sorry I love you.” Although I may not have always meant what I said, the significance of the statements stuck with me. We confess and forgive each other because we love each other.
Confess. Forgive. Both are personal, humble acts.
Confess Forgive. Both are deeper than Excuse.
Confess. Forgive. Both can restore relationships.
If you have ever held a grudge against someone, then you know that the anger or resentment harms that particular relationship. What you may not want to accept is the fact that the grudge harms you as well. Unforgiveness — yes, let’s call a grudge by its given name — is a weight that burdens and harms the carrier. It seems unfair that when harm or ill will is cast on me, I then have to choose to forgive. ( Whoa. CHOOSE to forgive.) There is not a human being who has not needed to forgive or to receive forgiveness; we all are imperfect — yes, let’s call imperfection by its given name — sin. (Romans 3:23) This imperfection put a rift in the relationship God desires to have with each person.
As humans, we tend to categorize sins into sort-of-bad, bad, really bad. Bad is bad. What you might need forgiveness for may be lesser in your eyes than what someone else needs to have forgiven, but that does not take away the fact that forgiveness needs to happen. Once we forgive, we probably still won’t be able to forget. Dwelling on the memory of someone’s offense or our own mistake, can create the need to forgive again, and again. You may have to forgive someone who is not sorry. You may have to accept an apology that was never given.
Often, we can find ourselves holding a grudge against God because He allowed something to happen in our lives that we don’t like. We are shallow and childish enough to believe He owes us only good things, forgetting that life in general is filled with both good and bad. God’s love doesn’t fluctuate like circumstances. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Sometimes the most difficult person to forgive may be yourself. If we are not able to accept God’s forgiveness, we will struggle with the burden of our own mistakes. God’s grace is extended to each one of us. He made a way, through the death of Jesus Christ, to have our sins forgiven. Unlike human beings, when God forgives, He forgets and casts our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). That is grace. That rift I mentioned — God took the initiative to restore it.
So, do you need to say you’re sorry? To someone? To God? Do you need to forgive someone who may or may not have told you they are sorry? Settle the matter. (Isaiah 1:18.)
Unforgiveness can harden a person, Wendell in Among the Crepe Myrtles.
(Picture: Dad, brother, me, before sis was born.)