On a recent excursion to grumpiness I muttered some things under my breath that I would later come to regret. As I approached my wife she could tell my mannerism and she asked if I was sorry. I said, “Maybe.”
But this “maybe” was really a “yes” because all my body language, my eyes and my guilty, forlorn look indicated it was more than a “maybe.”
Funny, isn’t it, how we hold back at times. This particular time it was humour that the “maybe” was couched in—partly to break the ice and partly to make it a comfortable experience for me to say sorry (though I don’t find apologising hard).
Grace for the Moment
Partners reconcile when one does more than their best and just allows the other person back in, despite the transgression. This, despite words, is the act of forgiveness.
Forgiveness has to be action-oriented.
The truth is, all partners will find themselves on the side of the aggrieved and transgressed; just as they’ll occasionally be the person aggrieving or the transgressor.
Grace for the moment is letting people back in; it is trust when trust may not be warranted, so in that, it’s a chance—a risk—a good one to take.
This sort of response—the generous issue of grace—is most important in dealing with imminent shame. As I’d reported above, my humour was veiling a sense of shame, and propagating shame (if my wife was to have done that) is never a good thing. It’s not biblical. Upon a repentant heart, we’re commanded to forgive (which does not always mean “trust”).
Don’t Just Go On Words
So many people communicate in language deeper than words. Gary Chapman discusses this in his book, The Five Languages of Apology.
It’s a mistake to need the words to be said. It’s saying that we can’t believe the body language and many other action-related indicators of repentance.
Words are part of the story, but they’re never the full story.
Forgiveness Helps Us More
When we issue grace—and the more unconditional it’s given, the better—it helps us more than it does them, though they need it.
We’re blessed of God because we get to feel, for that instant in time, like God feels for pardoning sin. This is a prized gift. It can almost make us want to be transgressed in the future, for this visceral blessing is not like any other.
Even though it helps the person we forgive—so they can get on with their lives; their guilt or shame dealt with—we stand most especially blessed. Not by them, but by the direct hand of God.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.