On Asking Forgiveness

Many years ago, I made a thoughtless comment to my sister which complimented someone we both knew. Months later, I realized that my comment could have come across as a comparison between my sister and this person, which was not the intent. I felt so badly, but the damage was done.

Every once in awhile this interaction would resurface in my memory and I would feel guilty for the possible unintentional pain I had caused my sister. I would want to apologize, but felt it would be insincere over the phone, as at the time we lived several states apart. I agonized over the pain I caused, because I knew how I would feel in her place. I would feel less than, inadequate, and unappreciated. How could I have been so careless?

Finally, years later, I made myself a note to ensure that I did not forget to apologize on my next visit. I figured it was better late than never and the regret I felt had been continually growing. So when we were sitting around the living room together catching up, I promptly apologized to my sister. Can you guess what happened next?

She had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. She was very confused but quickly said, “Well, I forgive you!” And that was the day I learned a very important lesson (actually two).

First: Don’t wait to apologize. Don’t allow pride or distance or inconvenience to get in the way. When you realize you have done someone wrong, apologize as soon as you are able. Maybe this apology could mend a damaged relationship. Or maybe, like in my situation, there was no damage done and I was only hurting myself by delaying my apology. I needlessly worried and felt guilt over a nonexistent situation. My original comment was innocent and I created a whole scenario in my mind that simply wasn’t true. If I had apologized when I was first convicted, then I could have put this behind us and not worried about any possible fracture between my sister and I. 

Second: Readily offer forgiveness. Even though no offense was taken, my sister quickly saying, “I forgive you,” was so healing. It is so much more powerful than simply saying, “It’s ok.” This is something I need to work on. Speaking forgiveness is healing to the recipient and convicting for the giver. I find myself giving insincere, “It’s ok,” responses, which are actually verbal eye rolls with little forgiveness actually given. Taking the time to speak the words, “I forgive you,” requires me to live by that truth. 

As we enter the holiday season with more interaction with family and friends and plenty of opportunity for miscommunications and hurt feelings, remember: don’t wait to apologize and readily offer forgiveness. How much more peaceful will our family gatherings and celebrations be if we remember these two lessons.

Leave a Reply