Jenny and the 2 oldest girls are on a sewing retreat this weekend. Really should be doing some work because I have a huge deadline Monday and all the little ones are sleeping at the moment. Right now, I’m just enjoying our brand new a/c and some quiet.
But something’s been bugging me for a long time and recently things have come up to remind me about this issue of forgiveness.
Yesterday on my way home, I stopped by the local gas / convenience store to fill up and take full advantage of “Sodapalooza” – any 32 oz. fountain drink for $0.49. When I went in to buy my Sprite Zero, the kid (and I mean he couldn’t have been a day over 16) looked at me and said “we’re good!” I paused and probably had a really confused / borderline ticked-off look on my face. He was trying to tell me that the soda was no charge. Eventually, his manager? translated for me and told me it was ‘free’. My confusion, of course, was because I was expecting there to be a cost for my drink.
Everything has a price. Every choice you make will have a consequence. It’s an interesting concept that we learn about it at a very young age. You do something right. There is a reward. You do something wrong. And you get punished. Sometimes, you receive mercy or grace — meaning, you are cleared of wrongdoing but didn’t have to pay the price. But the economist will tell you that nothing is free. SOMEONE had to pay / absorb the cost.
When you’ve caused some sort of harm or foul against another person, and you know you’ve done it, you have basically a few choices to make. As far as I can tell, there’s no single group of people who tend to favor one approach over another. Conservative or liberal, wealthy or poor, religious or atheistic — I’ve seen theses reactions among them all.
- You can deny your action was a wrongdoing. You may justify your Means for an End that’s of great importance. Some people are so focused on getting to a goal that they’ll do whatever it takes to get there. If they bend the rules a bit or skip a couple of steps, it’s okay in their minds because getting to the destination is of utmost importance.
- You can play dumb or try to divert attention away from your wrongdoing. Some people know what they’ve done is wrong, but they never own up to it. They’ll dance around or change the topic when it comes up. These people may go their whole lives pretending that wrongdoing never happened and live in complete denial.
- You can try to make up for the wrongdoing by doing exceedingly more good. These folks are very similar to group 2 except they just can’t live with the knowledge that there’s an 800 lb elephant always in the room. So in order to make up for it, they’re constantly trying to do good deeds, give you gifts, or laud praise over you. In their minds, they’re not ready to admit guilt necessarily, but they’re hoping that anything you hold against them might be outweighed by all the goodness they’ve done since.
- You can admit what you did was wrong, confess, and ask for forgiveness.
Now, I suppose there’s a 5th group that just doesn’t care. They know what they’ve done is wrong. They don’t feel the need to justify themselves. And they have no problem telling you that they know what they’ve done is wrong, but they don’t care.
Back to the first group of people. These people are probably the least upsetting to me because in their minds, they’re doing some greater good. So, when an investment broker milks billions of dollars from clients in a ponzi scheme or when a politician passes laws protecting his friend’s business at the expense of others’ or when a soldier in combat starts killing anyone that remotely looks suspicious including women and children — all of these people are usually justifying their actions for some other perceived “good”. Sure, there may be some collateral damage along the way, but that’s just the price of ____ (read: the greater good). The thing about this group is they don’t seek your forgiveness. They don’t see a need for it. In that respect, I guess that’s another reason why they’re the least upsetting to me. Not malicious, but let’s say misguided.
The second group is the most cowardly in my opinion. I get that facing your wrongdoings is hard, but pretending it never happened just makes you look dumb. It’s usually because of fear, or worse PRIDE, that prevents these people from facing up to what they’ve done. If you are so full of pride that you’re unwilling to own up to what you did, then you’ve got a hard reckoning coming your way someday. And when it does, you won’t find anyone willing to stand by your side. This group of people doesn’t necessarily want to be forgiven because that would also require admitting guilt.
The third group is actually what’s prompted me to write tonight. There are those that truly believe that doing enough good can outweigh the bad. They’re known as CHILDREN. Kids will suddenly become more than willing to help out around the house, do their chores, tidy up their rooms, take out the trash, etc. when they’ve done something they’re not supposed to have done. And what do we, as parents, usually say?
“Alright, what have you done?”
And why do kids do this? It’s because they FEAR what will happen when they admit fault. Maybe my parents won’t love me as much anymore. Maybe I’ll have privileges taken away. Maybe I’ll be grounded. Whatever the punishment is, wouldn’t you agree that coming clean from the git go will result in SOOO much better results than if we find out much later on our own?
Sadly, many adults aren’t that far off from kids in this group. As I wrote, maybe they start being extra nice to you or start giving you more gifts. Maybe they lay low for a while and hope that “time heals all wounds” and that eventually, you’ve forgotten all about that silly little incident.
I’m here to tell all of you — YOU CANNOT BE FORGIVEN FOR SOMETHING WITHOUT ADMITTING NEED (GUILT) AND ASKING FOR FORGIVENESS. It’s a logical impossibility.
Now, some people never forgive anyone. They will hold that one thing over your head for the rest of your life. In my opinion, you don’t need those people in your life. And if you’re dealing with someone who will never forgive in the first place, I guarantee Justifying the End, Denying the Existence of Wrongdoing, or Overloading on Good won’t satisfy these people either.
But — if you want to restore a relationship with someone, a relationship that has been separated because of something you had done to cause harm to the other party, the sooner you admit your fault, confess, and ask for forgiveness, the faster the two of you can get back to healing and restoring your relationship. We can’t be right with each other until that’s taken place. By doing anything else, you are only prolonging the healing and restoration.