We cannot make someone feel remorse for offending us nor can we make them ask us for forgiveness. They must feel regret on their own and ask for forgiveness from their heart. We can bring an offense to their attention but we can’t make them truly sorry for offending us. It is like a child who has misbehaved and his parents tell him to sit down and think about what he has done. The child might be siting down because he has been informed of the gravity of his offense but he’s still standing up on the inside.
As people of faith we can forgive people who have offended us in spite of their unwillingness to ask for forgiveness. The first step to forgive others that do not asked us to forgive them is to work on ourselves. If we don’t get what we need from those who hurt us, we must try to root out any bitterness and anger. Then we have an unobstructed path to forgiving our offenders. Without this, it is very difficult to get to a place where we can genuinely forgive.
Secondly, it is helpful to be critically introspective about our own failures and how many times we have offended others. If we feel worse about what we have done to others than what others have done to us it’s easier to forgive others. This puts what others do to us in prospective. It also humbles us a bit so we can forgive. if we feel that what others have done to us matters, but what we have done to others matter’s more. This makes forgiving others much easier.
Thirdly, when we show mercy to others God will show mercy to us. In the Beatitudes Jesus said, “blessed are the merciful for the shall obtain mercy.” This is a fixed biblical principal and should provide us with ample motivation to be forgiving, even if forgiveness is not asked for. When we are willing and eager to forgive we find forgiveness for ourselves. There is a direct relationship between being forgiven and forgiving others, being merciful and receiving mercy. It’s simple. It’s mystical. And it purges our conscience of guilt and regret.
Joseph C. Hutchison