Life is full of offensive behavior; offending and being offended. What others have done to us matters, it hurts and sometimes really hurts; especially if they are still finding ways to hurt us.
We cannot make someone feel remorse for offending us or can we make them ask us for forgiveness. Even if we demand it, they must feel regret on their own and ask for forgiveness from their heart. If we don’t get what we need from those who hurt us, we must try to root out any bitterness and anger, it just isn’t healthy to cling to these feelings. As Christians we can offer forgiveness to those who are or have offended us in spite of their propensity to continue to do it or their failure to ask us for forgiveness. Not easy, but it can be done.
One way to minimize some of the bad feelings when people hurt us is to genuinely feel worse about what we have done to others than what others have done to us. What others have done to us matters, what we have done to others – matters more. In the end it will hurt us more. Honesty breeds regret and guilt; prayerful introspection uncovers the many ways we have injured people, past and present. We should and can amend our behavior, ask for forgiveness, and offer restitution if possible and when appropriate.
Sometimes however, we have offended people in the past that we have little or no way to approach them now. Maybe they are no longer with us. It is possible that approaching someone we have hurt would be inappropriate because of well set and much needed boundaries that have been established between them and us. Sometimes admitting a failure to someone we have offended in the past would fall on deaf ears, or worse, be used against us in some way. When we find ourselves in this situation, there is a way to find wholeness and forgiveness.
When we are willing and eager to forgive all who have offend us we find forgiveness from those we have offended in the past. The way we respond to everyone who offends us today gives us the assurance that we have changed since we offended those who are no longer approachable. We feel forgiven when we know we have changed for the better. This across-the-board forgiveness is a kind of collective restitution for our past failures; a pay back for insensitive, dehumanizing, and unthoughtful ways we injured people in our past – sometimes in our distant past. We find much needed forgiveness and cleansing because we have liberally forgiven others. Jesus taught us that there is a direct relationship between being forgiven and forgiving others; being merciful and receiving mercy. It’s simple. It’s mystical. And purges our conscience of guilt and regret.
Joseph C. Hutchison
Rochester Hills, Michigan
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