Monday, April 29, 2013

Forgiveness Without an Apology

Each day I hear myself saying, "Say you're sorry. Good. Now you say, 'I forgive you.'" Actually, I have been saying this for years. Well, the other day I heard one of my children crying and their sibling, unprovoked, saying "I'm so, so, sorry. I really didn't mean for that to happen." Well, the victim came into the room, arms crossed and still crying. Clearly, forgiveness was not happening in his heart. All the other children were outside playing which afforded me a wonderful opportunity to speak into my child's life.

I started out explaining to him how important forgiveness is... how it can affect not just the day but days to come... how unforgiveness can bring more hurt and more sadness. I shared with him the scripture from Mark 11:25. "And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins." And the scripture from Luke 6:35. "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven." After talking for about fifteen minutes, my son's arms were still crossed and I could clearly see that I was getting nowhere. Then it hit me! He thinks I don't understand injustice! He thinks I'm just quoting the Bible without any real life experience on the subject of forgiveness! I sat him down next to me on the couch, rolled up my sleeves and welcomed him into my childhood.

I reminded him that I was the youngest of seven children growing up in a not-so-great environment.  The first memory that came to me was when I was around five years old and my older sister was seven. I was laying on the floor in front of the television with my baby doll. I remember finding just the right baby blanket and wrapping her up, then finding a pillow and a blanket for myself. I remember being alone with my doll, content and watching TV. The next moment my sister sneaked in, reached out and quickly grabbed my baby doll from me. She began mocking me for having a doll and holding the doll by her hair she began flinging it over her head around and around. I was in complete horror. That doll was like a real baby person to me and seeing her abused dropped me to my knees weeping. There was nothing I could do. I couldn't touch my sister because I knew she would drop the doll and take out her anger on me. It was a tormenting moment. There was no adult that would defend me or punish her. There was no reasoning with her. I had to wait it out. I had to wait for the teasing to stop. I had to wait for her to become bored and leave.

My son was shocked to say the least. I told him that when I asked Jesus Christ into my heart to be my Lord and Savior, I believed God wanted me to forgive my sister for all the years of hurt and injustice. To forgive without ever getting an apology. I explained to him that our calling to live like Jesus is a high calling. A calling that answers, "YES" I will forgive. To live as Jesus did. To forgive others as Jesus forgave those that hurt Him. I reminded my son that when Jesus was on the cross, while nails were in His hands and feet, with a crown of thorns on His head, and a lashed back, He cried out to heaven, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Jesus, in His agony, while staring at the very ones who falsely accused him, those who hammered the nails and whipped him, cried out to God the Father to forgive them. That is our calling. To forgive as Jesus forgave without an apology.

When all the children came in I sat them down and shared with them another story from my childhood. I told them (and I know this is very strange) how when I was young I didn't own my own pair of socks. We had a 'communuity' sock pile. Yes, it was crazy especially because there were five girls of different ages sharing socks. My mother did the laundry, sent it up the stairs and the first one to the basket of clean clothes and socks got to pick out the socks for herself. I remember wearing socks too big for me, with holes in them, and all the white socks were gray in color. That was life until I got my first paycheck. Honestly, the very first thing I bought was a package of  white Bobby Socks. I remember taking them out of the plastic, putting them in my top drawer and staring at them. It was like I owned my own little treasure. No more stress, and no more fighting with my sisters over a pair of socks. I was free from that mess.

Well, the next day I came home from work, got ready for bed, went to my drawer to get a pair of socks and yes, the drawer was empty! Every pair of socks was gone! I knew just who had done it. I went to my sister and found she had the audacity to be wearing a pair. I calmly said, in a controlled angry voice, "Give me back my socks." Her response, "No. What are you going to do about it?" In my head I knew I could do nothing. I was now a teenager and was not going to wrestle her to the ground over a pair of socks. (And yes, the baby kid games were still going on). I went in my room and I cried out to God. I laid there crying not just over the socks, but for the constant abuse. Then I was reminded of something Jesus said, "If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles." (Matthew. 5:39-41)  I didn't read the Bible for myself at that time, but had heard this scripture in school. It is amazing to me how scripture could bring such freedom. I got up and I was fine. The socks were just socks. I forgave her. I then went to my sister and told her she could keep the socks and with my next paycheck I would buy another package for myself. 

Forgiveness without an apology...can it be done for real? All of my life I was told that it couldn't be done. My family was and are true advocates of confrontation to the highest degree. Growing up in my home they believed in having three-hour-long talks, hashing things out - an airing of grievances if you will. What it really was, was a time of cutting the other person down and reminding them or telling them every time they ever wronged you. In most cases the talk would end with no apology, just both people being too exhausted to go on or running out of hurtful material. So, with the possibility of still not getting an apology I learned to forgive without an apology and without the long talks. It was actually easier and it worked. I could forgive them and move on without having 'justice.'

I spoke to my children about how they will never have to deal with a sibling like I had. How not one of their own siblings are as mean and cruel as my sister was. I told them forgiveness is possible with Jesus if we ask Him to help us. I reminded them that they really love each other, but we are all sinners and sadly we will never stop sinning. It's not an excuse, but a reality. We will hurt each other, others will hurt us, but if we have in our hearts and minds that forgiveness is part of our calling we won't be dragged down with unforgiveness, bitterness, or a victim spirit.  I told them that if we know deep in our hearts how much Jesus loves us and how deeply we love each other, the mean words won't hurt so deeply.  And lastly, I asked them to see how hurtful teasing is. That we should do all we can to not tease, or hurt or use our words to wound another person.

So, this article goes out to all the mommy's who are trying to teach forgiveness to their children. Remember to share your stories and your own struggles with forgiveness. They need to know we are real and we genuinely understand what they are going through. They need to know that our walk with God is real too. They need to hear how we struggled, what Scriptures set us free and how we walked out our faith. My children do not know the full extent of the things I have gone through because they are still too young, but little stories that God can use in their lives now will be shared and hopefully help them in this journey of living for Jesus.

"Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive." (Colossians 3:13)


  1. beautiful, just beautiful! Thank you!!

  2. Thank you. I wish you and your family many blessings. This touched my heart. God bless you.

    1. I am so glad it spoke to you and thank you for taking the time to leave a comment =) Many blessings of joy!