Words of Hope: An Elegant Question

Dad taught our family that we cheat the forgiveness asking process when we fail to resolve our conflicts or disagreements using language that does not address adequate resolution. Words such as “I’m sorry” are nice but not enough. When there is a breach, an injury, or disagreement, the words “I am sorry” cannot bring complete relational healing. Feeling bad about hurting someone else or doing wrong or causing someone pain is vital to the forgiveness asking process, but it is only part of the process. Most people miss all four key principles in asking forgiveness; genuine remorse, listening, change, and power balance. 

Remorse is a very vital aspect of forgiveness. Forgiveness must be genuine and authentic. Sorrow is a necessary emotional response. “I’m sorry” does have an element of this; however, the will to listen and empathize from the other person’s point of view is also crucial to forgiveness. This involves being able to say in the other’s words what went wrong, acknowledge the pain they felt, identify what frustration they have, and so forth. This language involves questions such as, “What was it like for you when I got angry today? How did you feel when I said those words? Tell me more about your perspective.” This allows space for the other person to express their pain fully.

Furthermore, when we say, “I’m sorry,” we are not offering another person freedom of choice. “Will you forgive me?” is a request. It is an elegant question to which you do not already know the answer. It gives the other permission, the right to choose. It places the hurt person in a position of power. It gives them the right to say no. When people say no, this usually means their pain is more significant than their trust, and we need patience and integrity to rebuild their trust. Granting authentic power to those who have been wronged is vital to the healthy balance of forgiveness asking. I am so thankful Dad taught us how to make forgiveness something that can bring healing.

The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; – Daniel 9:9