We all make mistakes. Some days, our blunders are bigger than others, but even on our good days, there are booboos. We need to deal with them quickly and constructively.
One of the things I help couples understand during marriage preparation is the importance of open communication – owning our own feelings, telling the other person in a constructive way if something is bothersome, or even offensive. This is true in all our interpersonal relationships, of course, but most people don’t come and talk to me about it unless they’re preparing to get married, when I require them to have the conversation. I wish it were required for all people at various times in life. (Maybe if we had a crash course in interpersonal relationships as often as we have to get our licence plate stickers renewed, the world would be less encumbered by conflict!)
If you have been offended – I don’t mean in the trendy way of a new generation, but truly hurt – you have a responsibility to tell the person who hurt you and own up to how you feel. The other party then has the responsibility to apologize for the offence and to make amends, even if she or he doesn’t think anything was done inappropriately. After all, what the other person received was her or his reality, and something can be learned for the sake of the relationship if an apology is offered and the conflict is cleared up. And then – this is sometimes the hard part – your next responsibility is to forgive that person quickly.
It may be hard to forget the offence, but for the sake of the relationship, it’s important to clear the slate and start fresh. I often illustrate it this way: I have a small scar near the knuckle of my left index finger. I remember exactly how it got there. I was adding weight to a freight car on my model railroad, about 16 years ago, when a dollop of hot glue landed on my hand. Of course, my immediate reaction was to get rid of what was causing the pain. As I brushed off the glue, it took some skin with it. It healed, and I have the scar – but no pain. I remember the incident, but it’s over. It causes no angst, no pain; I am left only with the memory.
That can be the case in relationships, too. We may remember the offence, but the pain is gone when we’ve forgiven the other person.
“…be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4.32, NLT).