Regret, Forgiveness, and Reconciliation
“Love means never having to say you’re sorry” is a line from Eric Segal’s novel Love Story and subsequent 1970 film version.
I don’t agree. A loving relationship means an apology for an offense is essential to maintain that relationship.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy to apologize. It’s humbling. An apology acknowledges that I’ve failed in some way by a wrong action or wrong words. It’s taking responsibility for wounding someone or causing conflict. I think the closer the relationship, the harder but more necessary the apology. How many marriages, friendships, and parent/child relationships might be saved if someone takes the responsibility to acknowledge a wrong and take time to allow the other person to express hurt?
Jesus teaches that believers should seek forgiveness and reconciliation.
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
“Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23,24
As a follower of Jesus, it’s my responsibility to acknowledge a wrong and try to make it right. From experience I know it’s not easy to do. It’s difficult to acknowledge failure, and sometimes the other person isn’t willing to forgive. I’ve learned that as soon as I’m aware I’ve committed an offense, confession and seeking forgiveness should become my goal. An apology allows me to learn from my mistakes and opens a line of communication that can rebuild the relationship.
The Three Sisters Series: Apology, forgiveness, and reconciliation are themes in Heart’s Desire, A Heart’s Journey, and Her Heart’s Longing (coming July 2023).
Aubrey White has reconciliation with Haleigh at the back of her mind as she pursues her goals, but it doesn’t become important to her until it interferes with her growing relationship with Haleigh’s brother Jeremy. Aubrey blames Haleigh for their broken friendship until she understands all that Haleigh had been dealing with at the same time the girls’ friendship had broken up, including the death of her beloved grandmother. With their new interests and new friends, she and Katie didn’t have time for Haleigh anymore.
Haleigh Abbott has avoided her former friends for six years. When her family moved away from Greenlawn, it was easier to box away her anger and guilt and occupy her life with high school and college, visiting nursing homes and hospitals with her therapy dog, Sunshine, and family life. After college graduation, she’s ready to find forgiveness, reconciliation, and release from the guilt that has caused a repeating nightmare for six years.
Katie Mann had stars in her eyes when she finds her niche in the high school drama department and falls in love with Nathan West. Aubrey enjoys popularity with her friend Leanna in sports, and Haleigh will surely be excited for Katie’s success and find new friends. Oblivious to how much Nathan’s teasing hurt Haleigh, and despite Haleigh’s warnings about Nathan’s intentions, Katie gives in to Nathan’s charm and ends up pregnant at sixteen. Like Aubrey, Katie goes on with her life, but she often wishes she still had Haleigh to watch her back.
Lack of forgiveness imprisons a person. Forgiving is a choice, an act of obedience commanded in Scripture:
“…bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. (Colossians 3:13).
Jesus told Peter to forgive seventy times seven times (Matthew 18:21,22), meaning you keep on forgiving. When someone has offended you, forgiving is not always easy or immediate, but it is commanded. Jesus said, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14,15) Not forgiving is sin and stands in the way of fellowship with God. (See 1 John 1:9)
Jesus Christ sacrificed His life to pay for our sins so we can be forgiven and be reconciled to God. No one’s offense against you or me is greater than our offenses against God. So, in obedience to God, because Jesus Christ made our forgiveness possible, we are to forgive one another.
“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
Forgiving and asking forgiveness are both necessary for the Christian to maintain a right relationship with God and people.
Scripture from NKJV