STEP EIGHT CONTINUED Seek forgiveness from those we hurt unless doing so would cause further harm.
Instruction: Don’t defend.
Just because we ask for forgiveness, it doesn’t mean that it will be granted. This can be a troubling situation and one that can create additional heartache and turmoil. Let’s not forget that when we seek to do no further harm, that advice also includes us. If we want to seek forgiveness, but feel strongly it will not be given and we could be hurt in the process, we might want to back away, reevaluate, and wait. Fresh wounds require time to heal. We know this is true with the physical body, and it is also true with our emotional health. If we get into a situation where our apology is rejected, the best course of action is often to drop the matter and walk away. Defending our position or our need to be forgiven can make matters worse. No response is often the best response. Besides, an apology that is given with explanations usually comes across as justification. A simple, “I’m sorry . . . I was wrong . . . Please forgive me . . .” is usually the most sincere and acceptable apology.
If we determine that we will not defend our actions, we will find that there is strength in our stance. Likewise, if we refuse to qualify our forgiveness, it will become the strongest possible. If we were to say, “I would be willing to forgive them if they would ____ ” then we base our forgiveness on conditions. Conditional forgiveness is not forgiveness. We would not appreciate it if someone were to place conditions on the apology we offered them. Someone who says, “I’ll forgive you if you promise never to do it again,” sets both parties up for disappointment. Forgive, release, move on, and release all future events into the keeping of the Universe. Making promises, even well-intended promises, doesn’t mean that we will be able to keep them. Consider an alcoholic who has promised hundreds of times that he or she will never take another drink—only to disappoint themselves and those who love them.
Today I want us to consider these words of Jesus: “let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’” Our apologies often need to be simple expressions of remorse without trying to justify or explain our behavior unless we are asked. If we are asked to explain, then we might want to remember this is our apology and not a time to shift blame. As we also have opportunity to forgive those who hurt us, may we not put conditions on their apologies, but may we accept the attempt of reconciliation no matter how feeble we might judge it to be. We also want to emphasize once more the need to separate forgiveness from permission. We are allowed to be cautious and set boundaries when necessary, especially when dealing with serious abuse situations.
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