How to Forgive a Multitude of Offenses
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There are many ways that we can feel hurt by someone, or even offended. One would think it didn’t happen very often, but in fact it can happen almost daily. Generally I’m not one to hold a grudge, but even I am known to be imperfect. I know, crazy right? So the trick is to find a way to forgive, even if it seems like it is not our responsibility. Maybe we believe someone should apologize first, or maybe we’re even more stubborn and just want to give them a hard time of it for doing something wrong.
Regardless of your religious beliefs I think a could tactic is to remember the 70 times 7 rule. To always forgive 70X7. Now, you could count out how many times that equals and then keep a running tally, but I fear you’d find more pain and weakness in that act than in simply learning to forgive.
Forgiveness isn’t easy, but it is worth it. Isn’t that the way of things? No easy thing is really worth it in the end, and generally hard things help us grow, learn, and improve. The same applies to forgiveness. Forgiveness isn’t entirely about the other person, in fact, it mostly pertains to us and where we’re at in life.
I had a specific instance when I was young where forgiveness, for me, seemed impossible. You see, I had befriended some girls in my church, and things in general were going pretty well. Until one day a new girl moved into our area. This girl was a little odd. There was something not quite right with her, and later I had learned that she had been sexually abused in her home, but at the time I didn’t know.
As I got to know her better I would invite her to activities with the other girls, and I would try to include her in everything that was done. The other girls were not very impressed with this, and over time they stopped talking to me, ridiculed me, and at one point made very obvious efforts to invite each other to parties right in front of me, without inviting me or even speaking to me. The one thing that helped me ignore it for the most part was that I had made a new friend in this new girl.
But eventually my new friend moved away, and I was left being ignored by the rest of the girls left behind. I was angry about this for a really long time, and it really hurt, but eventually my family moved and I was able to make amazing new friends. It might sound silly, but even writing about it now, years later, I still get a painful feeling in my gut remembering what it felt like to be treated that way, and I’m not sure I’ve 100% forgiven them. Does that hurt them at all? No. It only hurts me.
And that is why we need to learn to forgive, because as much as it may be for their sake, it is more for our own sake. We’re going to cover different types of offenses and how we can navigate them to better forgive those who have hurt us.
This is honestly the easiest person to forgive.
Example: You are at a party and someone makes a joke about having a heart attack. They don’t realize that your father had a heart attack just a few weeks ago, and luckily survived, but it is still a sore subject for you. Even though you know they meant no harm, you are still hurt by their words and attitude about something so personal to your life.
The strange thing about this type of an offense is that part of you may feel that they owe you an apology, but they don’t even know they’ve offended. You have a few different options to resolve this.
- You can acknowledge that they meant no harm, and come to term with what the real problem is. It isn’t that they said something about a heart attack, it is that you still haven’t recovered from the experience you had. It may just be something you need to resolve over time, or it could be something you can recognize and come to terms with in the moment. Either way, there is no reason to feel angry at the offender.
- You can approach this person and express your feelings about their comment or action, and let them know it would mean a lot to you if they could be more careful next time. This should NOT be coming from a place of anger, merely a place of understanding, on both parts.
The Knowing, and Apologizing
This situation can be a tad more difficult since when the offender hurts you, they know they are doing so. Sometimes they will apologize immediately, sometimes it will take a long time. Sometimes their apology makes it worse by apologizing for how you felt instead of apologizing for what they did.
Example: A friend makes a comment about a secret of yours in a public place, knowing that was something that you didn’t want shared. Later they may either apologize to you and say they shouldn’t have shared the information that you had entrusted them with, or they might apologize, that they are sorry you felt so strongly about keeping it a secret, because it wasn’t really a big deal.
One is genuine, the other still not very respectful of your wishes. but an apology nonetheless. We have the responsibility to forgive, even if only for our own sakes. This will help us to understand some of the things we can trust others with. I think it is important to note that just because someone apologizes doesn’t mean they’ve changed their behavior.
You may have many experiences where this friend just can’t keep your secrets so over time you’ve decided to divulge less and less to them. This doesn’t mean that you haven’t forgiven them for previous actions, it just means you’re acknowledging a weakness of theirs and deciding how to navigate it for the future.
The Knowing, and Not Apologizing
This is the most difficult act to forgive: when someone purposefully seeks to offend you and feels absolutely no remorse for their action, at least to you. This was how I felt as a teen girl surrounded by the other girls and honestly the forgiveness process is a brutal one.
Most people want to believe that people are inherently good, but sometimes people (for whatever reason) choose to do the wrong thing. Sometimes it is because we have done something to offend them and we didn’t realize it (or we did, in which case, an apology is in order.) But sometimes the actions are simply out of pure spite, and they haven’t been taught any better.
Sometimes the only thing that can help us forgive them is to feel a kind of pity for them. It is sad when people resort to offending, and one can only guess what brought them to that point in their life where they felt it was necessary.
The best we can do is realize that they’re offense need have no bearing on us, we can still be kind, and maybe in some cases we should let them know that we forgive them for the things they did or said. Each situation calls for a different reaction, but kindness and love should always be at the root of how we respond.
The Self Inflicted Offense
This is an interesting last example, but sometimes an action we make offends ourselves. We make a wrong decision and later have trouble forgiving ourselves for the choice we made. This can be one of the most paralyzing offenses because it leads us to self-pity, self-disgust, and self-loathing. We think less of ourselves and therefore begin to deteriorate in making good decisions and pushing ourselves to become better.
This is the point where we stop believing that we have any good qualities because we falter in one aspect of our lives. Before long, our good qualities do seem to disappear because they are not given the care and attention they need, instead all of our attention is brought to what we fail at, and instead of focusing on fixing, it’s focusing on how horrible it is that we carry this load.
Example: This is extreme, but maybe you have a problem smoking. It is an addiction, and thus hard to overcome, but instead of giving focus to your good qualities, such as your service in baking for your neighbors every week, you focus on how horrible of a person you are because of this habit.
If we can but learn to forgive ourselves and simply strive to do better, and be better every day, we can reach a place of peace within ourselves.
Finding a way to forgive others, or ourselves, and move on can be a beautiful and important quality. There are very few other things that can stop us so much in a tracks as holding a grudge, or refusing to let go of anger surrounding a certain person, or a certain experience.
The first step to forgiveness is recognizing where the other person is at. Was it an accident? Was it on purpose and they apologized? Was it just simply on purpose? Or was it a weakness? From there we can navigate our feelings and come to a place of comfort and forgiveness.