Friday, March 23, 2007

Who's sorry now?

A friend wrote me this morning about sin and forgiveness. She believes when you hurt someone in any way you should make amends to that person and ask their forgiveness but her family--and the person we've been discussing--believes that all it takes is asking god for forgiveness because he's the only one who can forgive. Basically, if I steal from you or beat you up or lie about you, all it takes to make things right is to ask god to forgive my sins. I don't need to go to the person and make it right. More and more I realize just how pagan I am. This is one more example.

When the boys were little and they did something wrong they learned very early that all it took to make things right was saying they were sorry. They had already raided the cookie jar and eaten all the cookies without sharing or gotten what they wanted and enjoyed it so to my mind saying they were sorry was like peeing in the ocean--not much in the scheme of things.

One time, Eddie bit David Scott on the back, leaving bloody teeth marks, pain and a lot of tears behind. There was no reason for Eddie to bite his brother; it was a phase he was going through. Someone upset him or looked at him wrong and he bit them. I used various forms of punishment and none of them worked, but when Eddie bit his brother so viciously (I'm not sure David Scott doesn't still have the scars) I decided to do something drastic. Eddie had said he was sorry but that didn't change what he did. An object lesson was needed. I bit Eddie. I didn't break the skin but my teeth marks were on Eddie's back just like where David Scott still bled. Eddie was shocked at first and then the pain hit and he cried. I didn't say I was sorry because I wasn't. I had to nip (no pun intended) the problem in the bud. It worked. Eddie never bit anyone again.

I have heard the whole song and dance that only god can forgive for a very long time and it still surprises me. It isn't that I don't believe in miracles or divine intervention, I do. But I also remember a lot of the Bible I was taught. "God helps those who help themselves." I believe that is the moral of the parable of the ten talents, or at least one of the object lessons.

I do my best not to offend or hurt others. There have been times when someone believed I had hurt them and expected an apology. In the spirit of friendship I apologized. One apology, it turned out, was not enough. I was asked to apologize again and again and yet again. I began to see why people believe that only god can forgive and therefore is the only person you should ask forgiveness from. It's a one-time deal and you don't have to keep apologize over and over and over for the same thing any time someone gets in a snit. The thing is, those kinds of apologies aren't worth anything and don't solve the problem because the problem is in the other person's mind. It isn't about an apology or making amends at that point' it's about humbling you.

More and more, I find that I don't apologize very often. Instead, I acknowledge my error and make amends in some way. I know how much peeing in the ocean affects that vast watery expanse.

As for me, if someone offends me I would be happier if they would simply acknowledge the offense and let us both move on. There are sometimes ruts and potholes in the road. When you hit a big one that damages your vehicle you get it fixed, but you don't stop driving and you certainly don't get rid of the vehicle. You tend to avoid the big potholes and ruts in the road the next time around, and that is only common sense. Friendship is like that road with ruts and potholes. A good friendship is like that vehicle when you hit a big pothole. Fix the damage and keep the friendship but avoid the pothole.

Too many times friendships have ended because of potholes that caused some damage. The thing about damage is that if it isn't fatal it can still be fixed. I can think of a couple of friends who decided it is easier to end the friendship than to repair the damage. They are wrong. A good friend, like true love, is too rare to so casually toss away. Forget about asking god to forgive. Fix the damage and put the vehicle--and the friendship--back on the road. You'll be glad you did, especially if the road still leads to where you want to be.

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