“I’m sorry” is potentially the hardest phrase in the English language to say. No one wants to admit that they are wrong, made a mistake, or hurt another person. Friendships end because of an unwillingness to admit a wrong and say sorry.
However, there is another phrase that rivals this one for most difficult to utter: “I forgive you.” Rather than saying “I forgive you,” we often default to “it’s okay,” and that, my friends, is not okay.
One thing I have been working on recently is eliminating “it’s okay” from my vocabulary and integrating “I forgive you” in. My relationships are changing dramatically. Allow me to explain.
A few weeks ago, I was in the car with someone, and they said something that hurt me. It touched a wound from high school that I thought was healed, but this opened it right back up. My initial response was to draw back and shut down. However, this person looked at me and said words that I know did not come easily. They said, “I’m sorry,” and I could see in their eyes that they meant it. I looked back at them, and almost said “it’s okay,” but I stopped myself.
“It’s okay” would have been a dismissal of the hurt that I was feeling. “It’s okay,” would have essentially been saying, “I do not care that you hurt me. I’ll pretend it didn’t happen.” When we say “it’s okay,” there is an unresolved tension that remains.
I paused for a moment and finally said, “I forgive you.”
“I forgive you” validates the wound. “I forgive you” shows the other person that they did something that needed to be forgiven. It is not a dismissal, but rather a recognition of the weight of the offense... because sometimes it’s actually not okay.
There is no shame that comes with this phrase, though. It says “I love you, and the hurt you caused me does not change that.”
This is why we see Jesus say the words He does in Luke 23:34. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
We hurt Jesus. Our sins wounded Him to the point of death. “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities. Upon Him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:5-6) Sit with that.
He did not dismiss our sins with an “it’s okay,” because it’s not. Day in and day out we fail to choose Him. We choose ourselves over Him, and it’s not okay. However, Jesus loves us enough to step into that tension. He forgives us because He can’t stand to spend a moment more in that unresolved tension. He desperately wants to close the gap, but the reality is that our sins carry a weight. They cannot be brushed off and left to sit. They carry a weight large enough that only death on a cross could lift it.
Jesus begged the Father to forgive us as He hung there on the cross. The only thing on His mind was you and I, and all He wanted us to know was His love for us. He loves us more than the deep pain we inflicted.
He loves us enough to forgive us because He cares about healing the relationship.
In our daily lives, the wounds are not okay. Oftentimes, our reaction is a dismissal of the wound because it’s easier. We don’t have to face the problem, and we don’t have to tell the person that hurt us what we are feeling. It is easier to numb in the moment, than it is to face someone and say “What you did hurt, but I forgive you and I love you still.”
“I forgive you” opens up the conversation. It allows the forgiver to explain why a certain word or action hurt, and it allows the forgiven to understand why what they said or did hurt so that they won’t do it again. These words are hard. I want to recognize that, but I also want to encourage you to use them and use them frequently.
Because of Jesus’ willingness to lay Himself down and forgive, we are brought back into a right relationship with him. We now have the opportunity to pattern our own lives after him and forgive the people in our own lives who have hurt us. Forgiveness is powerful, so let us follow the example of the One who forgave us of everything we’ve ever done and ever will do to hurt Him. May our love be deeper than our wounds.
Allison Dale is a sophomore at Kansas State University studying human development & family science and anthropology. She converted to the Church in September, and she finds joy in hammocking, long walks, little flowers, and pretty words. Her greatest joy, however, is being "big C" Catholic. You can find more of her words here.