People will be offended (or confused/taken aback at the very least) by your lack of offense.
As we talked through the repeat patterns of frustration in our lives, one of the girls on the call shared something she is teaching her children:
“When my kids fuss or hurt one another, and they need to apologize, we have taught them to respond to someone’s apology with ‘I forgive you,’ rather than the typical, ‘It’s okay.’”
I wondered, how would that play out in the adult world?
“Hey, I know I was supposed to show up tonight, but I can’t make it.” – I forgive you.
“I wasn’t able to finish my portion of the project. Sorry.” – I forgive you.
“I didn’t mean to interrupt you.” – I forgive you.
As we talked about this concept, we all admitted that we had grown so used to responding with “It’s okay. No big deal. Don’t worry about it.” What would it look like to practice every day plain ‘ole forgiveness on even the smallest of offenses. And even more awkward, what would it look like to have offended someone, even in a small way, and we receive forgiveness rather than consolation or a phrase to simply ease the tension.
Please picture facial expressions when you imagine a scenario with this idea.
You’re at work. You have a huge project due. That person who never seems to be on time or get their stuff done, once again drops the ball. He says, “Sorry, but I can’t get that report to you.” Maybe he adds an excuse. Typically we would say, “Oh, it’s okay. I’ll figure it out,” but inside we are seething. Let that happen a dozen or so times, and we are well on our way to the bitterness farm. Now, picture his face if your response is, “Well, that’s disappointing, but I forgive you.”
I have a physical response even just imagining this scene. I picture that person’s face. “Forgive me!? Huh?!”
My friend shared how people reacted to her kids just forgiving people all over the place. Not only were they forgiving their siblings, but also when they were offended, or a toy was taken, or something happened at school, on the playground, in church classes – people are surprised that this is how her children respond to being wronged. Yes, even in a church, the forgiveness bastion.
What’s your go-to response?
For so long, mine was, “It’s no big deal.” And while it may not have been a big deal, it wasn’t always no deal at all. If we forget something, or we cancel on someone, it generally doesn’t bring about a world catastrophe. But it also doesn’t mean we don’t owe someone an apology.
And responding to an apology with “I forgive you” might help us evaluate the level of sincerity in our own apologies. If I share “sorry” and have an “I forgive you” bounced back, there is something that happens to my understanding of what I may have just done. Maybe dropping the ball adds extra stress to someone else. Maybe cancelling last minute means food or items that were prepared for me are now wasted energy and resources. People may not be dying because I can’t make an event or I cannot accomplish a goal, but being forgiven, for even those things, might help me learn to pause and evaluate my commitments prior. If I offend someone, knowingly or not, hearing “I forgive you” serves a dual purpose of sparking conviction and extending grace. Practicing forgiveness, normalizing grace, surely these are things that would benefit all of us.
So let’s try it. Next time you get the chance, replace your variation of “It’s okay” with “I forgive you.” Or maybe take it to the next level and ask for forgiveness when you realize you’ve missed the mark. And please share with me the responses you receive. I feel like we are about to make the world just a little more awkward, and I love it.
All this from one group session … who wants in on the next? Sign Up Here