There’s a policy that I try to evoke as frequently as possible, and I want to share that policy with you today. The policy is to ask for forgiveness.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that prisoner was you” Lewis Smedes, Professor of Ethics and Theology
Let’s start by admitting that I do a lot of things wrong. When I was little, I would get into trouble for being “mouthy” or disrespectful. As an adult, I continue to struggle with that. It’s my words that get me into trouble.
I don’t know why it’s so hard for me NOT to speak; but, it is hard. My words are not always helpful and they’re not always interpreted in the way I intended them. Other people consider how their words and actions are likely to be received/interpreted BEFORE they say them, but I struggle with this all the time. I used to think that if I didn’t INTEND my words/actions to be taken that way – then the fact that they were upset was more THEIR fault than MINE. Well, as I’ve matured (it’s a slow process) I realize that there is plenty to apologize for.
Whether I meant to make a person feel that way or not, it does not change the fact that they DID feel that way. I caused that feeling; and I have a responsibility to own up to my part of that and ask them to forgive me.
The Jewish custom requires that if you wrong someone else, then you would ask THAT PERSON for forgiveness up to three times before you could ever come to God in prayer asking for forgiveness. It’s an interesting theory and I think it’s the right way to go about things. Too often we use the easy way out asking God to forgive us for the things we’ve done wrong, but we never muster the courage to go to the person we’ve wronged to ask for their forgiveness first.
Prayer is not an excuse to avoid the hard things in life. It’s not an “out.” We’re called to ACT in this world. The one we’re living in right now. Practice makes perfect.
Ask for forgiveness – do it often.
“When you realize you’ve made a mistake, make amends immediately. It’s easier to eat a crow while it’s still warm” Dan Heist, author
Don’t let your pride keep you from acting quickly. It’s human nature to expand on the hurt and to harden our hearts towards the object of that pain. If you wait to make things right until you’re ready to say sorry, it could make it much harder for you. By the time you come around to asking for forgiveness, that person could have expanded the initial incident even further in their mind. Instead of apologizing for one thing, you’re now being held responsible for six different things.
But, listen. It’s not their fault. After all, YOU didn’t do anything to keep them from thinking that way. Did you?
Humans make assumptions all the time. They might be wanting to justify even more negative feelings towards you to protect themselves from ever getting hurt from you again. They’re closing the door because you’re not safe. Don’t let them get that far down the road of hurt before you ask them to turn around.
Ask for forgiveness – do it often, and do it quickly.
“The day the the child realizes that all adults are imperfect, he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself, he becomes wise.” Alden Nowlan, Canadian poet, novelist, and playwright.
Thankfully, I have needed to ask for forgiveness countless number of times. It’s because I realize how hard it is for me to get it right, that I can easily forgive others who have wronged me. It’s rare that I would hold onto a grudge, and those that I have held on to – I’m working on making it right and letting them go.
How can I expect perfection from the people around me when I fail at my attempts to “do right” on a daily basis? We’re bound to hurt one another. We’re bound to say the wrong things or do the wrong things. We’re bound to think of ourselves first and others afterwards. It’s a nasty habit; but since it’s OUR HABIT, we need to own up to it.
Ask for forgiveness and give forgiveness – do it often, do it quickly, and do it for everyone.
“He who is devoid of the power to forgive, is devoid of the power to love.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
Each time I ask for forgiveness, I’m a little bit more aware of how I affect the people around me. I’m a little bit closer to learning how to be considerate. There is love in correction. Luckily, some people love me enough to let me know when I didn’t get it right. They love me enough to not let me stay out in the dark.
I’m thankful for that.
Ask for forgiveness and give forgiveness – do it often, do it quickly, do it for everyone, and do it because you love them.
Who could you practice loving today by forgiving? Who might need to hear you ask them for forgiveness? I think it’s worth taking a moment to consider.