As I mentioned yesterday, reconciliation is only possible when the victim (the one who was wronged) and the offender (the one who did the wrong) make peace with each other. Unless the victim extends forgiveness the best we can ever hope for is “conflict management” rather than conflict resolution.
As victims we can forgive even if the offender is not sorry. While it takes two to reconcile it is a myth that it takes an apology to forgive. Forgiveness is to release the offender from your resentment, bitterness, anger, and desire for revenge. It does NOT mean that you should entrust yourself to that person. Forgiveness is a profoundly spiritual act. To forgive evil does not mean that we tolerate it. But as someone has said, to forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you. But my point here is not to write an essay of forgiveness. I would just like to make a point our two about how to behave when someone comes to you to apologize… or how to hear a confession when you were the one wronged.
1. Do your best to have already forgiven the person before they come to you (or before you confront them with their wrong). This will make it exponentially easier for reconciliation to happen sooner. It will also keep you from turning into a miserable and bitter person.
2. Rebuff excuses and obtain specifics. Not everyone will have read yesterdays blog about how to apologize. You may need to show a little tough love. The person may be truly sorry but for any number of reasons doesn’t know the ABC’s of apology. You may need to help/coach them. For example:
If they say: I’m sorry if I hurt you.
Maybe you should say: If you hurt me? Of course you hurt me. Do you know why you hurt me?
You are unlikely to be able to pull this off gracefully or productively if you still hold resentment and anger inside. An offenders ‘poor’ apology can stir up the hurt in us. Amy Carmichael said, “A glass of sweet(fresh) water, when it is jarred cannot spill out bitter water.” This is another reason why it is important to forgive even before an apology.
3. Verbally grant forgiveness. Simply say, out loud, “I forgive you.”
4. Invite questions. It is possible, in some situations, that we might not be aware of wrongs that we have done to the person. This might be an appropriate time to ask, “Have I wronged you in anyway?” and to have a talk about it. It is better as the next to last step rather than earlier in the process. It is easier to deal with one person at a time. Now it might be your turn to apologize clearly and offer restitution.
5. Verify restitution (if applicable). Our forgiveness is not dependent on restitution but it is sometimes necessary for the offender to pay restitution for true reconciliation/peace to take place. Sometimes it is helpful to spell out the specific conditions of restitution to the offender. Restitution may be actual or symbolic.
6. Ensure peace. This is the final step. Confirm verbally (and perhaps with a hug if appropriate) that peace has been restored. The building of trust and intimacy may take time…but the foundation has been restored.
Jesus said if we cannot forgive people when they sin against us than we ourselves cannot receive forgiveness for our sins against God. Jesus implies that our relationships on the earthly realm influence our relationship with God.