He that cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he must pass himself; for every man has need to be forgiven.
— Thomas Fuller
“I’m sorry” is a common phrase around our house. It seems that I need to forgive or ask for forgiveness on an almost daily basis. My kids frustrate me and misbehave. I forgive. I am too quick to snap, nag, or jump to conclusions. I ask for forgiveness. A close friend disappoints me. I forgive. Or I am the unsupportive or unavailable friend. I ask for forgiveness.
As much as I’d like to think otherwise, I am far from perfect. Like Glennon at the Momastery points out, “there is no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one,” and the same can be said when the word mother is substituted with friend, spouse, sister, or coworker. Any strong relationship (whether it is between parents and children, spouses, siblings, friends, or coworker) relies on close interaction, authenticity, and comfort, all of which lend themselves to hurt, frustration, and disappointment. We are imperfect people trying to achieve perfect relationships – an impossible task…unless you have forgiveness.
I recently came across one of the most honest and refreshing posts about relationships that I’ve read in a long time. My friend Bill at The Authentic Life wrote about the importance of communication to his relationship with his partner. To say that I am a big fan of Bill’s writing a major understatement. I admire his easy wit and respect his raw honesty, particularly in this post where he acknowledges that he and his partner occasionally hurt each other (whether for rational or irrational reasons may be up for debate), but that they survive because of their remarkable ability to communicate.
Like Bill so expertly describes, forgiveness happens with communication. And communication can come in many forms and varieties. Early on in my relationship with my husband, we instituted “bygones” as a means of resolving certain conflicts. “Bygones” was reserved for those situations where one or both of us had spurred on a pointless argument due some trivial trigger – whether misplaced stress, unreasonable insecurities, hunger, lack of sleep, or hormones. “Bygones” was our way of saying to the other person, “I was wrong. I am sorry. Let’s forget it and move on.” Sometimes saying just that one word was worth a thousand words and a dramatic reconciliation. That one word contained all the communication that we needed to cross the bridge of forgiveness.
So much of what I come across on the Internet about relationships – whether in news articles, blog posts, Facebook status updates, or Tweets – is at the extremes, focused on presenting a shiny, unrealistic euphoria or dwelling in irritations and abrasions. The reality is that a healthy relationship of any kind is neither one of these things, yet it might be a little of both of these things. Relationships are messy, flawed, and complicated; they are also awe-inspiring, enriching, and imperfectly marvelous.
All we need is forgiveness and communication, whether one word or a thousand.
Do you have a hard time forgiving or asking for forgiveness?