When someone you have wronged forgives you, how do you know? Most likely they will tell you won’t they? Even if they don’t say the words you just know it right? The answer to those two questions is… Maybe.
How many times a day to you utter the phrase “I am sorry”? It is a very common part of my daily vocabulary. Though sincere as I am when I use it it is probably not really necessary 90 percent of the time.
When I have wronged someone or caused them hurt or pain it is very important to me to apologize to them. While I will use the phrase “I am sorry” my apology will also be filled with any number of things I can think of to right the wrong I have done to them. I know that just because I apologize to them doesn’t mean they will forgive me but I’ll be honest… I always want to hear them say they do.
And why is it that saying “I am sorry” seems so insufficient a thing for us to say as the offender but when you are the one waiting to hear those words they can make the difference between knowing you are loved or believing you are hated.
What if you give someone an apology and they don’t say those three little words? What if they leave you to wonder whether or not your apology had an impact on them. Even hearing anger and hurt from them is better than nothing at all… Isn’t it?
Have you ever apologized to someone only to hear them say, “Well, we all make mistakes”………… and that’s it? One of my favorites is, “I forgot about that a long time ago. No need to apologize now”.
If I am trying to apologize to someone it means I believe I have hurt them and I would whole-heartedly like to make amends. Is it too much to expect the apology to mean as much to them as it does to me? Is it too much for me to expect for them to accept my apology? These are good questions to be pondered.
My daughter Leslie is so sweet. Any time she thinks she owes me an apology she will say the sweetest little “I’m sorry, Mommy…” after which she will say, “Will you forgive me?” It is human nature. We all have that need to not only hear an “I am sorry” when we have been hurt but we also have a need to hear an “I forgive you” when we mess up.
Matthew 6:14 & 15 says For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (English Standard Version)
I believe it is unrealistic to think that God expects us to forgive right away. Some things are easier to forgive than others. God knows that when our hearts are deeply wounded it is not easy to forgive. He made each of us. We are human. We are flawed. If we weren’t there would be no need for forgiveness because there would be nothing to apologize for.
I believe what this passage means is that we are to constantly work towards forgiveness. I believe it means that as long as we are working towards forgiving heart and understanding in the matter we are allowed to give ourselves time to heal.
If we say the words, “I forgive you” to someone but we are still hanging on to a grudge in our hearts that is not true forgiveness. We can however say to that person, “I am not there yet but I am working on having a forgiving heart towards you. Please be patient with me.”
I think that is as fair as anyone could expect you to be. Demanding forgiveness from someone after you have apologized is not okay. Anyone who demands forgiveness from you probably really isn’t very sorry.
On the flip side of that they do have the right to confront you about the sincerity of your forgiveness if you tell them you forgive them and then continue to hold their wrongdoing over their heads.
Forgive and forget then? In some cases I would say yes but not always. I don’t believe God wants us to forget everything but he doesn’t want someones past mistakes to influence the way we trust or view them in the future. Maybe He wants us to remember some of those things because later we may need compassion and grace from them for committing the same offense.
I have been on both sides of the apology/forgiveness business. I have wanted to love and to be loved. I have hated and not wanted to be hated. I believe in order for us to all live a life that is holy we do not have be perfect. We just have to work towards holiness. There was only one perfect person and his name was Jesus.