Hide hurt feelings. Forgive quickly. Hold no resentments. Forgive and forget. Love keeps no record of wrongs. Turn the other cheek. These are the characteristics of the strong. How many times are we supposed to forgive? Seven times seven? No, seventy times seven.
What does forgiveness look like? What does forgiveness feel like? What does forgiveness mean? Is it restoration of relationship? Is “I’m sorry” even enough for this?
Let me tell you this: Forgiveness is mine and yours to give. It is not something that can be demanded of us. “I’m sorry” does not look like this:
When you do things that hurt others you do not get to choose the consequences. When I do things that hurt others I do not get to choose the consequences.
Just because forgiveness is extended does not mean the hand of friendship is. Some abuses of relationship just make this so. The injured party gets to decide if and when that is even possible. Forgiveness is not a get-out-of-jail-free card.
What if an atheist feels a remorseful sadness–in your heart of hearts you recognize that you’ve done something that hurt someone else, so it is true guilt for something you are truly responsible for–and you need help to cross a “bridge” in order to mend the brokenness in that relationship?
Whether you are an atheist or theist is of no consequence when you have hurt another. This should be the response:
You do not need divine intervention to know this. Make no excuses, make no demands, have no expectations. You have no right to do so. Pray or don’t pray. When you know you’ve hurt someone else the best course of action is apology and/or restitution. It doesn’t take God for me to know that’s what I should do, and it doesn’t take God to make it happen. I’ve found that neutral third party real people build bridges that are less…invisible. It doesn’t make me feel better to think that God has forgiven me if I’ve injured a real person.
You see, for too many people forgiveness looks like forgetness. Sometimes “I’m sorry” isn’t enough. Sometimes you can earn your way back into a relationship and sometimes you can’t. If you’re given the key to someone’s inmost places, if you’ve been awarded trust, and then you’ve broken it; you don’t get to be disappointed in having to relinquish the key.
Life is not a meme.