Have you ever offended someone unknowingly? I have. I’ll never forget when a husband of a friend of mine was helping me out. We were talking about something and then he stopped and looked at me. He said, ” Do you not even realize what you did to us? You’ve invited me over to help you, you’re sitting here talking like nothing’s wrong and you did…. to us.”. I was shocked and hurt at the same time. I hadn’t realized that my actions had offended because they had acted like nothing was wrong for so long.
I think he could tell from my reaction that I was unaware that I had offended them. He wrapped up what he was doing and left. I was sitting their wondering what just happened. I finally realized that I had been wrong and later went to him and her for forgiveness. How we both handled it affected our relationship from then on.
Forgiveness is something we want from others, but have trouble giving to others. None of us are perfect. That means we all mess up and at times offend or hurt someone else. I’ve done it and you’ve done it. How do we handle seeking or giving forgiveness though? Why is one so much harder than the other?
Seeking forgiveness can be difficult too. It requires that you humble yourself, admit that you made a mistake and then go to that person to admit it. It is against human nature to do that. Don’t believe me? Tell a young child to apologize to someone and watch what happens. Most kids 2 years and up have a hard time apologizing. We don’t like to admit we were wrong. Period.
Seeking forgiveness is important though. Many people, like my friend, may never tell you until the damage is irreparable. If you knowingly hurt someone, you need to go to them and ask for forgiveness. Put the ball in their court. Give them the choice to forgive you or not. It’s important that you recognize what you’ve done and that you’re truly sorry. That goes a long way towards receiving forgiveness from others.
What about when someone hurts or offends us? How quickly are we willing to forgive? We typically judge ourselves on our intentions and others on their actions. When someone comes to us for forgiveness, we need to forgive them. I say that as someone who has been cut to the bone by someone else by an unforgivable act. If we choose not to forgive, we allow ourselves to be consumed with bitterness. It affects every area of our lives. Giving forgiveness when it is least deserved offers the greatest freedom.
Forgiving someone when they don’t ask is even harder. Inside, you want them to be sorry for what they did and to have that closure that they know it was a mistake and you forgive them. Just because they don’t come knocking on your door for forgiveness doesn’t mean you don’t have to forgive. Jesus said in Matthew 18:15 that is someone offends you that you should go to them and clear it up. Yes, you should initiate it. If they listen, you have gained them back.
Life is too short to hold grudges against people. There is freedom in forgiveness. Each one of us have sinned against God and He has not held that against us. He offers forgiveness to us no matter how bad we have wronged Him. In fact, Romans 5:8 says that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He provided a model for us. Forgive others even when they don’t deserve it. We’d like to be forgiven even when we don’t deserve it. Who do you need to forgive today to get your freedom back?