“I don’t think that I can ever forgive you.” “You don’t mean it. You’re not really sorry.” “When will you ever learn?” Expressions such as these are repeated in households and workplaces everywhere every day of the week. We humans are social beings, and social beings interact. Interactions inevitably will lead to some conflict. I think our ability to resolve those conflicts defines our “success” in life, our ability to work with and for our fellow man. At the heart of conflict resolution is the art of forgiveness.
While conflict might be inevitable, it is how we deal with conflict that really demonstrates our ability to make a positive contribution to our community. It has been said that the best carpenter is not necessarily the one who does the best work the first time, but the one who can fix his mistakes the best. I think the same analogy holds for interpersonal and social relationships. Our ability to fix our individual “mistakes” and the “mistakes” of our community help us to move on in our lives. Recognizing that we will make mistakes is the first part. When the mistakes occur, then we can work to correct the problems asking for forgiveness for ourselves and extending forgiveness to others. Additional components to successful forgiveness are sincerity (truly meaning what you say and do) and humility (acknowledging that we are all equal in God’s eyes).
I have previously discussed different stages of forgiveness, from childhood to adulthood. I now realize that that view is naïve. Even when we become adults, we still have several stages to go through in learning forgiveness. And adults often seem to have more difficulty with forgiveness, more than children or adolescents! Adults seem to think that words will sometimes suffice to express their forgiveness or their request for forgiveness. Words are just the promise of our actions. Deeds demonstrate our true resolve and show how we care about our loved ones and our fellow man. Adults (myself included) take “baby-steps” down the road to learning true forgiveness throughout our lives. The more steps we take with sincerity and humility and the more steps we take using deeds as the expression of our words and thoughts gets us closer to really learning the meaning of forgiveness. I’m convinced the latter is our lifetime quest.
The take home message
Let’s all be the best carpenters we can be, fixing our mistakes to the best of our ability. It is fitting that Jesus was a carpenter. He manifested the ultimate ability to forgive with sincerity and humility. We all have a lot to learn as we practice forgiveness.