How to Forgive

The people that need our forgiveness the most are often our own family members. Families are communities bound by blood relationships. Love runs deep. But just as familial ties make love strong, they also make it easy to hurt one another. In fact, many children live with emotional pain and scars they received from their parents. And their parents often don’t even realize that they caused such pain.

Emotional healing occurs when parents ask for forgiveness from their children. But this is not easy to do. It is especially difficult in Asian families where parental authority is emphasized. Simply saying, “I’m sorry, please forgive me” would heal many emotional wounds, but many parents cannot or will not say it, leaving their children with pain and lasting grudges against them.

It is easier for Christians to ask for forgiveness because they have experienced God’s forgiveness and their spiritual eyes are opened to their own faults. In fact, a good measure in determining if one is truly saved can sometimes be the extent to which one is able to ask for forgiveness.

Some time ago I was thinking about my death and I thought it would be good if, on my deathbed, I didn’t have any regrets towards others and no one had regrets towards me. So I decided to write or call and ask for forgiveness whenever I realized or remembered that I hurt someone’s feelings. I also asked my children if I had ever given them emotional scars. Thankfully they said no. I tried not to postpone asking for forgiveness because we do not know when we will die.

Sometimes I actually felt resentful rather than free after asking for forgiveness. It depended on the response of the people whose forgiveness I sought. Some people sneered and said that I was putting on a show. Some said there was nothing to forgive and refused to grant forgiveness. Others gloated, saying “It’s about time for you to admit you were wrong!” When I got responses like these, I could not help but be reminded anew of their past hurtful behavior and resent the fact that I asked for their forgiveness first.

Knowing how to forgive is as important as knowing how to ask for forgiveness. So when someone asks for our forgiveness, we must learn to accept it gracefully. When a younger person asks for forgiveness, we should praise them for their courage. When an older person asks for forgiveness, we should thank them for their humility. And we must clearly express our forgiveness towards them. Then both parties will experience the freedom that comes from forgiving and being forgiven.

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