I genuinely hurt a good friend many years ago. I regretted it as soon as I did it. He hasn’t really forgiven me. I’ve made every attempt to repent and repair, but it changed our relationship. We rarely, if ever, see each other anymore.
There have been many people I’ve offended. In fact I offend people every day. When we went through a church split in 1997, one pastor visited me to tell me I needed to go to every person I’ve offended and ask their forgiveness, including people who read my blog. I laughed that ridiculous suggestion off. I feel no responsibility for people who get offended by me. If they can’t forgive me, that’s their problem. That’s the way I look at it. Could you imagine if Jesus went around apologizing to every single person he offended? That would have been a full time job.
But it’s totally different, isn’t it, when you really love someone, you really do inflict them with hurt, and they won’t forgive you. How do you get over that? How do you move on?
I don’t claim to have mastered this one. I’m just going to share what I’ve done. Let’s be clear: my heart still hurts over it, but there are things I can do to ease the pain that might help you ease yours.
- I did everything I could with him: I repented. I asked for forgiveness. I explained what I did wrong to make it clear to him that I was aware of how I hurt him. It wasn’t a fake apology, like, “I’m sorry IF what I did hurt you.” It was genuine: “I’m sorry I hurt you! This is what I said, it was wrong and stupid and I regret it. I wish I could take it back. What can I do to make this better?” I even went out of my way to try to meet him as much as I could and talk through it. So my repentance and attempts to repair our relationship were clear. I really do think I did everything I could.
- I had to forgive myself: I learned an important lesson. I have to forgive myself even if others won’t forgive me. This is my right, my privilege and my responsibility. I have to forgive myself. So I did. But I have to admit that it is much harder to do when the offended won’t forgive. Right? I mean, when you do something and everyone forgives you, it paves the way for you to easily forgive yourself. But if they withhold forgiveness, then you have to forgive yourself in spite of their response. That’s very hard to do. But it must be done. Especially when you have done step #1… you know what you did, you’ve repented, you’ve asked for forgiveness, and you’ve made every attempt to repair, then you must step up to the plate and forgive yourself even if no one else will. This is the core of compassion.
- I try to keep my heart clean of resentment: You are aware of the famous Hatfield-McCoy feud in the USA in the late 1800’s. Feuds start with an offense, followed by an unwillingness to forgive, followed by a resentment because of it, followed by… well… you get the point. This is the cycle of violence which manifests in division and disunity. I have to admit that there are moments I get sad that my friend won’t forgive me. I notice how this can easily morph into resentment and ultimately hatred for him, followed by some kind of retaliation such as a series of unkindnesses against him. I have to remember that this is his problem, not mine. I could make it my problem, but what good would that do? I am powerless to change him and his mind and heart. That’s his job. All I can do is keep my heart clean, and wait.
- I conclude I am forgiven: I embraced the fact that God, the Higher Power, the Source, the Universe, etcetera, forgives me and holds nothing against me. Nothing holds anything against me except my friend. I did all I could. I am released. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that there was nothing to be forgiven. True forgiveness isn’t even aware that it forgives. Compassion is continuous, thorough and timeless. Forgiveness is not an event but an environment. It’s a reality. Like air. It just is. Some parents understand this with their children. You learn what it means when you can say, “You were forgiven before you did it.” When I discovered this new reality, I determined to live in its realm. Even if my friend doesn’t forgive me, I am still forgiven. I hope you understand this.
Listen: I love hearing back from you guys. You can simply reply to this letter if you want.
I hope you found this helpful.