apologies and regretSometimes we do stupid things. Sometimes we say mean things. Sometimes we really blow it and hurt someone we love.

Sometimes the person who loves you is the one who does the thing that really hurts you.

Not to sound harsh, but that’s just kind of part of being human. You screw up. You get screwed over. You act in your own self-interest. You get taken advantage of. You break someone’s heart. You get your heart broken. We experience these heartaches every day, on some level, as long as we live in this fragile world.

To a romantic idealist like me, this seems really hopeless. Makes me wanna run and hide. Or just give up altogether. But that’s not really an option. Not if I want to have any kind of real relationship while I’m alive. So, what do we do?

One thing I’m learning through marriage is...apologies go a long way. But man, sometimes it’s hard to swallow your pride and say you’re sorry. And it’s also hard to hear an “I’m sorry” when you’re still reeling from a painful blow.

But apologies and forgiveness are the only path we have to reconnecting after relational injury.

If you’ve wounded someone, your apology can be a soothing salve to that wound, sutures to a gaping hole that your words or actions created. Apologizing can be humbling, but it’s also critical to begin healing and restoring the connection between people.

But what happens when there is injury but no apology? Similar to our physical bodies, an untreated wound might heal on its own. But even minor wounds take time to heal and still might leave a scar. Major wounds usually need medical intervention—unless you enjoy permanent damage. If you love someone, tell them you know you screwed up. Tell them you’re sorry, that you regret what you did because of how it hurt them. Ask for their forgiveness.

But...what happens when there is apology but no forgiveness? To extend the metaphor: An untended wound festers, gets infected, sometimes turning into something so awful that amputation is required. Or, you know, the limb just falls off on its own. Good times.

When someone hurts you and you hang onto it—whether they’ve apologized or not—your unforgiveness toward that person turns into a festering sore, and at some point, that part of your heart is going to get inflamed with anger or maybe go numb in apathy or maybe fall off after long-held bitterness. The heart cannot heal without forgiveness. A relationship cannot heal without forgiveness. If there is no apology, forgiveness with some distance is sometimes the right path. Either way, forgiving the other person frees YOU to experience internal healing and emotional peace.

What is forgiveness? Well, it’s not trying to just forget the bad thing happened. That’s probably repression (and isn’t especially helpful). The best definition I’ve heard for forgiveness is that, essentially, it’s deciding that you aren’t going to make the person PAY for their wrongs. When you forgive, you make the choice that you won’t try to get them back for what they did, won’t demand payment from them, won’t keep them at arm’s length, won’t make them grovel at your feet.

And whenever I think about this idea, I can’t help but be reminded of God’s forgiveness of me. He is my Creator and loving Father, and I am His daughter. I’ve done selfish things that have wounded our relationship. Does He hold it against me? Does He make me pay? Short answer: Payment is required..but it’s already been paid.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

“The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:8-12)

The wrongs I’ve done demand justice. That need for justice has been met in Jesus’ death on the cross. Because He is the sinless Son of God, His death paid the price of ALL the selfish things all of us have ever done or will ever do. Only my death would have paid for my sins; Jesus took that penalty instead so that I could have life—and have it to the fullest. What an incredible gift.

Friends, does this make sense to you? If it doesn’t, leave me a comment. I’ll get back to you. :)

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