This column is ninth in a series.
I have come to look forward to each Thursday afternoon. Meeting with young Alex over the past number of months has been insightful for us both and certainly rejuvenating for me. He is a smart young man and he has a good sense about himself.
His being late for our session was very unusual. But last week when he arrived nearly 30 minutes after our appointed time, I could see that something had him upset.
“I’m sorry to be late,” he said as he walked in.
That’s alright, Alex, I had a few things I was able to work on while waiting. You appear a bit upset, do you want to tell me what’s bothering you?
“Well, that’s why I’m late. I got into a fight with a friend,” he said.
“A real fight, a fistfight?” I asked.
“Almost. My friend said something nasty and untrue about another friend and it made me angry. He repeated it and I took a swipe at him and hit his arm. It knocked his phone out of his hand. The screen cracked when it hit the ground.” He paused and added, “I told him it was his fault for being such a jerk. I just wish I hadn’t hit him.”
Sometimes, Alex, there are consequences from what we do that we didn’t intend to happen. It sounds like you have just such a situation here. Think about your first words as you came into my office just now. You greeted me with “I’m sorry.” You will likely want to greet him the same way the next time you see him.
You don’t want a broken phone to turn into a broken friendship. The process of repentance and forgiveness plays a very important role in our lives and if we can earnestly practice both sides of that process, we will be much happier with ourselves. You can initiate the process by expressing to your friend your sorrow at having hit him and asking him to forgive you. You can even offer to have his phone repaired. Forgiveness doesn’t just fall from the sky, you must seek it out. His forgiving you can only happen if you ask him to do so. Your relationship as friends truly hinges on that first step.
At the same time, if the friendship is important to him and he is tuned in to the process, he will want to apologize for his words about your other friend. Then the burden of forgiveness is on your shoulders. That whole process of repentance and forgiveness is what mends broken relationships.
Often we will find that forgiving is much more difficult than apologizing. True forgiveness means that whatever is being apologized for becomes as though it never happened. When a person has atoned for his wrongdoing, it should become a forgotten matter.
God tells us of our need to be mindful and prayerful about our words and deeds that hurt others. God knows that we need forgiveness as much as we need to be forgiving. Indeed, God has provided us with the greatest atonement for our waywardness. We should always be thankful for that.