Recently a dear friend and I had the opportunity to give and receive forgiveness, and the experience has inspired me to reflect not only on the nature of true friendship but also on the elements of true forgiveness, and I have deeply pondered why we can sometimes be so slow to forgive and, especially, to seek true restoration.
It took nearly a week after the “inciting incident” before my friend and I sat in Starbucks and confessed how absolutely miserable we had been the entire day and how desperately we wanted the relationship restored–and also how we had each convinced ourselves that we had marred the friendship forever. This, I rejoice to say, is actually the opposite of the truth, but it goes to illustrate how an attitude that refuses to grant forgiveness (even subconsciously) can blow a situation completely out of proportion when we stew and wallow in our angst rather than confronting a situation head-on and truly making the effort to restore harmony.
Why are we so loathe to grant forgiveness? And why are we often so fearful to ask for it? In all my pondering, nearly all the answers I can come up with (apart from something like bitterness, which is another issue entirely) point back to fear, specifically the fear of rejection. What if this person just spurns me? What if they don’t see me as genuine or think I’m just sucking up to them by asking for forgiveness? What if I bare my soul and admit my wrongdoing… and get nothing in return?
And then there is the uncomfortably dreadful situation where you receive an apology but do not feel that the other person is truly seeking reconciliation. Perhaps they apologize simply because they think they have to, in order to maintain a relationship, but they don’t truly see themselves in the wrong, and thus they don’t even ask for forgiveness. This is the sort of mumbled “sorry” apology that does nothing, in the long run, to restore the relationship. In such situations, no apology at all is almost better!
But despite these fears and misgivings, when we do have an experience of giving and receiving full, free forgiveness, it serves as a beautiful reminder of the gift of forgiveness that God has given us through Christ. As my friend and I exclaimed “why didn’t we just TALK?!?” and laughed together, I felt a keen sense of the freedom that comes not just from admitting my own culpability in a breach of a relationship, but also from a heart filled with the willingness to forgive. I know the human heart does not tend toward forgiveness very naturally, but I am so grateful to God for the heart He has given me – a heart that wants to be reminded of how very much I have been forgiven, and therefore, a heart that is willing and eager, always, to forgive.