In the world of repentance and forgiveness, both parties have to be willing to meet somewhere in the middle, even if you cannot hit the bull’s eye with a Peterbilt.
Weighing the Offense
Humans tend to grade bad behavior. Some behaviors are considered more egregious than others, say comparing murder and lying. While some would argue both are killing in their own rights, we view the level of the offense as it pertains to the hurt it causes us.
Bring the sorrow.
When the offender comes to you with I’m sorry, you need to gauge the level of remorse. Is the offender:
- Truly contrite?
- Honestly apologetic?
- Willing to rectify the wrong?
- Going to cease and desist?
- Worth the effort?
Now, you know I’m sorry is not always an apology. If you feel like the offender is remorseful, determine if it is possible to right the wrong and if the behavior will likely reoccur. You have to make a decision.
What is it worth?
How about a simple math equation?
Level of offense-apology-change =_______
If the answer is a positive number, chances are good this offense is forgivable. If it is negative, it probably is a deal-breaker.
Forgive me, please.
You decided you could accept the apology and the penance. To put closure to the matter: Forgive and heal and forget.
- Forgive is easy.
- Heal takes time and energy and the cessation of the behavior.
- Forget, well, at least try it.
The two definitions of forgive which apply are:
Truly, it is not as simple as simply saying I forgive you. It means giving up the hurt, giving up carrying it around, giving up the opportunity to use it as ammunition in your next fight.
No one requires you be perfect and forgive entirely…immediately. Getting to a place where you will not toss the offense like a hand grenade is no small feat. After all, admissions of wrongdoing naturally put up our guard against repeat offenses.
Let’s put it in pop-culture terms: Don’t hate the player; Hate the game. When you have been hurt, forget the pain, but remember the behavior surrounding the offense. Protection from future hurt is not the same as remembering the pain as a weapon.
Learning from being hurt is important. What you remember is more important:
- This offense hurts me this much.
- I did not contribute to the commission, therefore I can bear no guilt in it.
- I did contribute to the commission, therefore I must not _______ in the future.
- My view of the human race changed because of this.
- My defense against this is now different.
The last one is the most complex part of forgetting. You must use the hurt to adapt to your environment, protect yourself from future pain and not attribute the changes to anyone but your own experience. From the innocence of recognizing your own forgiveness, you can rebuild fractured trust.
When the answer to the simple equation is negative, forgiveness is not as healing. Still too much of the hurt associated with the transgression is left behind to honestly embrace forgetting. Forgiveness is not impossible, but it is very different.
Rather than a rebuilding of trust, you engage in every/some/any one else. The offender has taught you a valuable lesson, even if you cannot or do not feel able to trust your relationship to continue.
Ending a relationship does serve as forgiveness. The distance creates space for healing and forgetting without the pressure of a constant reminder of the transgression. Even though it is harsh penance for the offender, often it is the most cathartic relief for the offended.
There are no absolutes when talking about the level of hurt and how to deal it. Be mindful to judge each behavior on its own demerits. During the process, you just may discover your new defense offers your offender a different type of latitude.
Look before you bail.
Before throwing in the relationship towel, look closely to see if the bull’s eye is now in view of the windshield. Every time we are hurt, we change. In that change grows our power to forgive.
Forgiveness frees both the offender and the offended.” ~Momma
(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2011
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