When we make mistakes and sometimes offend others, we keep short accounts by liberally seeking forgiveness. When offended, we liberally offer forgiveness to those who have wronged us. Holding grudges only holds us back.
I’d like to say a word about the most famous line from the 1970 movie, Love Story. Before ruining all your fun, however, go ahead and say the line then give yourself a pat on the back if you said, “love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
To which I say…baloney! Anyone who’s been married more than 24 hours knows it just isn’t so. It would be more accurate to say, “Love means having to say you’re sorry every day of your life and twice on Sundays.” At last count, Love Story co-stars, Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal, have five divorces between them. Fairly low by Hollywood standards, but likely sufficient to leave them both questioning the wisdom of the line they made famous so many years ago.
While Staples has their “Easy Button,” I’ve got my “Sorry Button.” I find myself apologizing to people so often I should probably just tattoo “I’m sorry” on my forehead. Seriously, if there was a prize for most apologies per day, I’d win hands down. But, simply saying you’re sorry only gets you halfway back to relational health. A contrite apology needs to be followed with a much more difficult question, “Will you forgive me?”
If you’ve ever held a grudge against someone for a long period of time, you’ll likely agree that “holding grudges only holds us back.” It’s true that some people are successful in using their grudges as powerful motivators to achieve something they might otherwise have seen as unattainable. But, it’s also true that grinding an axe over time will eventually grind you down. For long term health and well-being, it’s hard to beat the old “forgive and forget” adage.
A word of caution as you enter into the fragile business of seeking and offering forgiveness. If the other party is unaware of the offense, your attempt to bring healing to the relationship may only bring more hurt to one or both parties.
Say someone has hurt you deeply but is oblivious to that fact. If you offer them forgiveness, their response may only add to your hurt. They might get defensive or attempt to invalidate your feelings by saying something like, “you’re just overreacting.” If it’s something you can’t move beyond without some help, then before offering forgiveness, you need to let the offending party know of their offense. Not an easy thing to do, but a necessary first step towards true forgiveness.