True inner strength and courage lies in one’s ability to apologize and to forgive. This truth is a scary one because it may require an open, beautiful, and exposed heart. A conflict with another human being, regardless of who it is, is truly never one-sided. Understanding the complexity of our interactions and emotions can be difficult but can also be enlightening and rewarding.
I knew I would make many mistakes when I became a mother. That’s why I decided that I would apologize to my own children when I messed up. When I speak to my children, especially after making some stupid mistake, I remind them that in many ways I am still this little ten-year old girl who somehow became a mom and is trying to figure it all out. Isn’t that really the truth though? Sure we acquire more wisdom as we age, but I for one still have the heart of a child. I don’t think I will ever truly stop learning how to do this motherhood thing, how to do this life thing, how to do this living thing.
I screw up. I apologize. Even to my own children.
It is such a powerful act of love. Honesty is a key ingredient. Honesty with yourself and honesty with others.
When you apologize to a friend or a family member you are willing to admit that you are a mere human; fallible, beautiful, honest, and humble. You also lift the other person up, the one who will forgive you for your actions because you have the courage to resist justifying your actions and doing even more damage. An apology says that you are accountable. Apologizing can truly be measured in a person’s ability to love. This is strength. This is character.
Apologizing to my children from time to time has transformed my relationship with them. Let’s say I’m trying to work or write and one child keeps interrupting me. I may become short with them and over react. There’s nothing like your child’s crestfallen face to make you see that you’ve been a complete jerk. It is those moments when a decision needs to be made. I can choose to say “Well, I was busy and you deserved that snarky comment I made,” or I can choose to say “I’m sorry I snapped at you, I feel overwhelmed and was a bit mean.” The first scenario says “You did something wrong and I am justifying my bad behavior.” The second scenario says “You did nothing but wanted your mom’s attention and didn’t deserve that strong of a response.”
This is how you build your child up. You become stronger for them. You admit when you’re wrong. You have the courage to allow them to truly see you own your actions.
So why does it take strength? It takes strength to apologize because there’s a risk. Perhaps not so much with your own children because most children are just filled with unconditional love, but there is a risk when you apologize to others. That risk or fear of rejection, of not being forgiven, of not being truly loved and having the door closed in your face, these are all possible scenarios. It takes strength to put yourself out there but the reward? The reward is love. The reward is great.
Getting through a difficult situation with a spouse or a friend only makes your bond stronger. I’ve seen this recently in my own life. I see it every day in my marriage. Forgiveness requires even more strength. Forgiveness requires you not only to accept someone’s apology but it requires you to look deep inside at the hard truth that you too are fallible and would want to be understood if the shoe was on the other foot. Forgiveness takes insight. Forgive those the same way you would want to be forgiven.
You make mistakes every day and are forgiven every day. Perhaps your husband knows you all too well and ignores a harsh word that you have said because he knows you’ve had a bad day. Perhaps your child forgives your snappy retort because he or she simply holds you in a place of unconditional love. Perhaps your friend forgives you all the time because he or she values your friendship and understands you better than you understand yourself.
I’m sorry. I understand how you made a mistake. I forgive. I make mistakes too. Love. Accountability. Connection. Communication. Forgiveness. It takes a strong person to say sorry, and an even a stronger one to forgive.
I do have to put a caveat in this post. There are some crimes on humanity, on a person’s soul or person that are so heinous that they are unexplainable and unforgivable. I just can’t believe that God wants us to forgive pure evil. In this case I cannot believe God is asking you to forgive. No. I do believe that he may ask you to find what little strength you have left and transform your story into something better. I’d like to believe he would ask you to free yourself from any blame or darkness that was unfairly placed on you. Hold your head up high, put one foot in front of the other and….if you can…turn that darkness into light.