Out of Character or Character Flaw?
We’ve all done it – said or did something that we regretted. Most of the time (thankfully) all it takes is an earnest apology for being a dope with the promise of not committing the same grievance again. What I have learned as I’ve grown older is that sometimes, unfortunately, an apology is not enough. I’ve come to the conclusion that careful consideration of the action needs to be given to decide whether or not the offense is out of character or a character flaw.
If it is out of character, I think that is more easily forgiven. After all, we all can make a bonehead move that demands an apology. Of course the more egregious the error, the harder it is to forgive. Let’s face it: a spouse having an affair – even if it’s a “fling” – is much harder to forgive than someone being late for dinner.
Then there’s the flaw that continually raises its ugly head despite the number of times it’s been discussed and apologized for. This is one that causes the offended person to consider stepping away from the relationship in the name of self-preservation.
And what about the offense that is never apologized for? Years ago, I was in a discussion regarding forgiveness and the question came up about forgiving someone who has never asked for forgiveness. The reasoning is that extending forgiveness – even to someone who never asked for it – is healing for the forgiver.
That’s a tough one for me to understand. I don’t believe in harboring ill will – life truly is too short – but extending forgiveness to someone who doesn’t acknowledge his/her shortcoming seems like you’re constantly putting yourself out there to be hurt again and again.
My friend “Betty” is grappling with a situation in which a person feels that she committed a horrible offense. Betty doesn’t agree but thinks it’s important to apologize to her friend for hurting her. The problem is that her friend doesn’t understand forgiveness when the offender is offering an apology for the hurt that is felt and not the perceived offense. So unless Betty can genuinely apologize for the “offense” there’s no value in it to her friend.
How do things get so complicated?
The Jewish faith has a period of 10 days of repentance that includes Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and the days in between. It is during this time Jews meditate on the subject of the holidays and ask for forgiveness from anyone they have wronged. Perhaps they have the right idea – just issue a blanket “I’m sorry” and whoever receives it and however it’s received is on them.