One Sunday morning several years, ago, my father was in a church leadership meeting at which a man who no longer attended was being discussed. Dad was curious why this man of great faith had suddenly stopped coming. I’m sure this man’s situation had been discussed many times over the years, but on this particular Sunday Dad learned the part he played in this man’s decision.
After the meeting someone approached Dad and kindly shared why this man quit attending. “The reason was because you offended him!”
Dad was surprised and experienced a twinge of guilt. He thought of the offended man during the entire Sunday services and wondered what he had done to offend him and how he could resolve the situation.
By the time his church responsibilities were finished Dad knew what he had to do. He must apologize. He walked to this man’s house, but he wasn’t home. His wife invited Dad to wait, and after two hours this man came home and was surprised when he saw Dad.
Dad stood up, walked over to the man, shook his hand, and said, “I’m sorry for offending you so many years ago. I didn’t realize that I was the cause of so much anguish in your life. I hope you will forgive me.”
I don’t know who the man was or whether he ever forgave Dad. I learned this story from my mother and never talked to Dad about it.
This example demonstrates two components of forgiveness, both of which are important to our personal peace and growth. Dad experienced the first when he asked for forgiveness. The second was or could have been experienced by the offended man IF he accepted the apology and granted forgiveness.
As parents, we should help our children understand both types of forgiveness and then help them integrate both into their life. Also, it is a good idea for our children to experience receiving both apologies and forgiveness from us.
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