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Friday, July 22, 2016

On True Forgiveness

My husband stood me up for lunch.

It was about a year ago, a few weeks after we were married.

And, in his defense, it was an honest mistake that was totally outside of his control. He works in a space with a special security clearance where they don't allow cell phone. He couldn't get in touch with me to tell me he had a sudden change of plans.

But still. My first emotion -- after a strong bout of panic and calling his phone nearly a dozen times -- was understanding, with just a tiny twinge of bitterness.

I mean, I forgave him. Completely.

It's was totally fine.

Life and work comes up.

Circumstances frequently get in the way of what matters the most to us.

But he better be prepared to make it up to me. 

Big time.

And because I married the most gracious human on the planet, he did make it up to me. That evening there was a special bar of chocolate and a nice meal prepared for me when I walked in through the door after work.

Everything was fine. I'm not saying that chocolate is the answer for everything, but it certainly helps. He apologized. I forgave him after understanding all he'd gone through to earn his way back in. But I did sit back and bask in his eagerness to redeem himself.

After all, I deserved it. Didn't I?

That made me wonder what the rest of my relationships would look like. If I sat around and waited for the people who've wronged, inconvenienced, or hurt me to make it up to me before they won forgiveness.

Something about that screams unhealthy. And a little bit like a Hunger Games spin-off. To live in a world where your actions are only forgiven after they're sealed with an apology. And delivered with a gift or compliment. 

It made me wonder how hard I'd have to work to stay in good graces with everyone if I had to buy back forgiveness. If I had to pay reparations for my past mistakes. If I had to over-correct all minor and major (let's be honest, mostly major) shortcomings and flaws with doing, pleasing, buying, making-it-up.

I'd owe the world a lot of chocolate.

That is, if you were into that kind of thing.

We do it a lot, don't we? We utter phrases under our breaths that seem to point to earning back grace with each other.

Perhaps it's my people-pleasing tendencies that feeds my need to over-correct, but when I've wronged someone, I can't let it go. Even after I've apologized. Even after they've assured me that it's okay. That they haven't thought about it since.

Let me make it up to you

I'll take you out to dinner.

Next one's on me.

My treat.

As if we need to earn forgiveness. As if it's not a gift in and of itself. As if it's something we can track with an Excel spreadsheet. That we can measure against each other. That we can make sure we stay in the green with everyone.

And because we're human, because we're flawed, we let people down. We say terrible things. Some we don't mean. Some we do.

Sometimes asking for forgiveness doesn't seem like enough. Sometimes accepting forgiveness without exchanging a few frequent-offenders miles doesn't feel right.

It's not fair.

It's unnatural.

But, it's grace.


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