Awkward hugs are, well, awkward. Yet, not since hugging was invented can there be displays of affection more horrific than when two people, believing that one phrase can erase both pain and consequence, find themselves caught in the eternity of seconds as they embrace. They are living a lie.
This one. If you “really forgive someone” you’ll instantly be right back at the corner of friendly and awesome. Our guilty consciences play terrible games with broken hearts. What if we aren’t feeling it but believe the myth of an instant and automatic outflow of warmth, joy, and displayed friendliness because we verbalized three little words.
Admitting you said or thought “I forgive you” becomes the adult version of the Get Along Shirt where the person locked into it with you is the very one who knows the precise location of every bruise.
Forgiveness isn’t a simple mind over matter issue for anyone. The greater the personal trespass on my soul, the more shattered and slivered I become, until, maintaining a focus on intentional forgiveness requires so much effort I often lack the ability to do more than remain very still and make feeble attempts, by sheer determination, to function as normally as possible.
Not all cracks and rifts are equal. Some heal quickly, with minimal scarring, while others will change everything about us.
Simple apologies, a word of forgiveness, alone or even together, will never offer enough substance to rebuild. To be candid, there are no clean breaks between people. This type of damage is like two pieces of paper glued together then ripped violently apart. Neither remains whole. No one can honestly deny the shredding happened. Nobody looks good later.
There is an abandoned golf course near where I live. We walk on spongy ground where green plastic mesh shows through what remains of a fairway. Left to the wild animals and elements, the emerald greens and pristine whites one would expect from the premier course it was intended to become are faded into winter’s dull grays and browns. Ponds lie half-empty and algae filled while bridges have deteriorated into the skeleton of a place once filled with promise and hope.
An entire neighborhood sub-culture once planned around the idea of resort living in your own home has turned into a graveyard to ambition.
Agreements failed, water rights arguments waxed long and eloquent, until all that remains is only vaguely seen in the atrophied debris of a dream. Investments were lost. Fortunes shattered.
Now only emptiness and graffiti covered outbuildings with broken windows remain.
Sometimes, friendships are like that.
We have a plan and declare, confidently, that this time we will be beautiful, magnificent.
You are my dream come true!
You complete me!!
Excitedly, we share life and live closely together until there is little more than distance that separates us.
Until… The sharp words, the brokenness, and the thorny places all contrive to drive us apart. Blindly retreating to our separate corners, shaking off our initial surprise, the silence prompts us to start examining what remains of our dream.
Yet, even when apologies are made there is more we need. Even if there is no apology and yet, stalwartly, we have walked through the motions of forgiveness in our hearts and minds, something is missing.
This is different from forgiveness in that it requires an apology, the humbled acknowledgement of hurtful behavior and choices, from the offender and the offended must consent to let go of the very, righteous and justifiable right to remain angry.
We have to be willing to become compatible again. Taking the shambles of our friendship, our marriage, our parent/child relationship, and then commit to work shoulder-to-shoulder doing whatever is necessary to rebuild.
The choice to take part in reconciliation happens over and over.
It begins with being willing to recognize, honestly, when someone was wronged. Yet, beyond just seeing, it requires the offender to refuse to hold any personal right to defend their actions. Even more dangerously, reconciliation forbids the wounded to indulge any vindictive desire to punish their attacker.
If I hurt you, even if I lacked intention, I was wrong. If you hurt me, even if you fully intended to do so, it is not up to me to ensure you to feel the “full weight” of your actions.
We serve a Judge who sees all and metes out the right consequences in His own time.
I can’t tell you what reconciliation looks like for you and your offender. There are too many variables.
But without the beauty of reconciliation and the hours, weeks, years even of work it will take from both of you to diligently pursue godliness, you will never, ever see the beauty of a friendship restored, stronger than before, shining with Grace and the worthwhile brilliance of redemption.
Forgiveness will not always lead to reconciliation. Sometimes the friendship is over and best laid to rest. Yet, it is rarely NOT worth the brutally hard work to rebuild and see God restore the hearts of two people who had previously been at odds.
Reconciliation will always lean heavily on forgiveness. Just as we need oxygen to exist, forgiveness is the fuel driving us to reconcile and find grace, compassion, and kindness within the rubble.
But to say one hasn’t forgiven because there has been no reconciliation is a nasty lie intent on keeping you from seeing the freedom and joy God has for you when you forgive.
When there is no repentance from the one who broke your heart, you can only offer forgiveness. Reconciliation takes two.
See the rest of the series: