How do I make amends to someone that has hurt me deeply? I know it is a crazy question. I mean do I need to make amends to someone who obviously is the one who needs to ask for forgiveness? I have really struggled with this concept. Shouldn’t the other person be the one to offer up an apology? Maybe, but if you wait for that apology then your bitterness only grows, right? So aren’t I hurting myself if I allow my own bitter, angry soul to get more bitter and more angry?
I cannot even count the amount of times that forgiveness is a topic in the bible. Here are just a few…
Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
Matthew 6:11-13 ‘Give us this day our daily bread. ‘And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’
Luke 7:40-42 And Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he replied, “Say it, Teacher.” “A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both.”
Mark 11:25 Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.
Recently, I had the pleasure of hearing a speaker talk on forgiveness and making amends. As I walked away from the talk, I realized that forgiveness for this speaker was finding a solution to: why am I reacting in this way to this person? So if she felt angry at someone, she didn’t ask herself, “What did that person do to me to make me feel this way?” Instead she asked herself, “What is causing me to feel this emotion of anger? Why am I reacting this way?” She looked internally instead of externally.
AH-HA! For so long I had been looking at the person who caused my anger or bitterness or sadness. I never had thought to look at myself and find out why I reacted that way. For instance, when someone hurts me (or sometimes just questions my way of doing things), I tend to take the defensive. I am not sure why, but I get angry and upset. So the other day, when Pete asked me a simple question and I could feel my anger building, I said to myself, “Why am I feeling this way? Why am I getting upset over a simple little question? Pete always asks questions; that is just the way he works. So why am I reacting so badly?
Well, after a lot of soul searching I realized that I need Pete’s approval. When he questions how I do things or why I do something in a certain way, I feel as though he is berating me. He isn’t, but I react as though he is. Pete is very analytical and methodical. I am very instinctual. When Pete asks a question, it usually has to do with the process that is going on in his brain. He is segmenting whatever we are talking about into little spreadsheets in his brain. That seems crazy to me. Why doesn’t he just go with the flow? Why doesn’t he just know that is how you do it? Well, he doesn’t do things that way. I do. So, I tend to get a little upset when he questions my way. Probably because in Pete’s brain there should be statistics and number backing up why I do something, when in fact, I just did it because I felt it was right. I hadn’t done any research or read books on it. I just did it.
What does all this have to do with forgiveness? Well, Mark 11:25 (see above) says that we must forgive others so that God will forgive us. Pete hadn’t done anything wrong. I had. I jumped to conclusions. I decided (in my brain) that Pete didn’t like the way I handled a situation and his questions meant he was out to prove me wrong. That wasn’t the case at all. I had judged him unfairly; all because of my own assumptions and images in my head. I owed him an apology.
If I allow the bitterness and resentment to bottle up inside of me, then my connection with God is broken. I need to repair the things I can control – myself. Remember the serenity prayer? Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. I cannot change the way Pete thinks. In fact, I don’t even want to change him. He is one smart guy and I look to him for advice all the time. I CAN change the way I react to him. It will take time. It will take prayer. Mostly, it will take a lot of making amends. Thankfully, Pete is patient and willing to let me change slowly, at my own pace and with God.
So next time you find yourself angry, bitter, sad or just plain miserable because of something someone did to you, think about this: Why are you reacting to this person in this way? What are the underlying reasons that you feel that emotion? Then take the time to make amends with that person, humbling yourself and doing all you can to repair your own connection with God. It may not change the strain in the relationship, but it will mend your relationship with God.