STEP EIGHT CONTINUED Seek forgiveness from those we hurt unless doing so would cause further harm.
Instruction: Separate forgiveness from permission.
We may have heard people say, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.” We may have even used that logic ourselves. This can be a tricky road to navigate. On the one hand, if we know someone well enough to know they wouldn’t have a problem with what we want to do and if the thing we want to do is not something that would create a falling out if we were wrong, then perhaps there are times when it is acceptable to proceed and not bother that person who might be in the midst of something important. On the other hand, this type of thinking could lead to a diminished view of forgiveness—one that sees it as “no big deal.” Abusive behavior can also come into play when we assume that because of a person’s religious beliefs they will be compelled to forgive us. This borders on arrogance and is definitely unhealthy thinking.
If we choose to forgive someone, that doesn’t mean we give them permission to repeat the same offense. Those who don’t take our forgiveness seriously and who disregard our rights and feelings need to learn that we might forgive them, but we don’t have to be a part of their abusive behavior. We can, and should, forgive them and love them, but we can also choose to keep our distance, feelings, and our worlds separate.
When we seek forgiveness from another person for injuries they have suffered at our hands, we might want to remember that if the other person forgives us, it doesn’t mean we have permission to continue the same behavior, we don’t have permission to be their best friend, and they might not even want to be around us. We can’t control whether our apologies are accepted or rejected. We can’t control the outcome of our apologies or the future relationship. What we can control is our behavior, and we can choose to stop hurting people—especially in the name of our religion.
Give some thought today to the expression, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission.” Are we using that expression to justify bad behavior or to get our way when we think someone might not, in fact, give their permission? Are we degrading the value of forgiveness by thinking that another person has to forgive or that they owe it to us to forgive them? Do we not lose a measure of our integrity and put relationships in jeopardy when we assume we will be forgiven, all will be forgotten, and life will go on without negative consequences?
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