For the choir director: A psalm of David, regarding the time Nathan the prophet came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just. For I was born a sinner — yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. But you desire honesty from the womb, teaching me wisdom even there.
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me — now let me rejoice. Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spiritfrom me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you. Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves; then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness. Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you.
You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God. Look with favor on Zion and help her; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Then you will be pleased with sacrifices offered in the right spirit — with burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings. Then bulls will again be sacrificed on your altar.
~ Psalm 51 (NLT)
I’m in the middle of reading The Five Languages of Apology by Dr. Gary Chapman. It’s an interesting read in some respects. In other respects I think it omits the full impact and importance of repentance. The book suggests that apology is the ultimate communication to restore a relationship. I think that’s misleading and have become increasingly dissatisfied the further I get in the book.
In the jargon of the book, the five “languages” of apology are (1) expressing regret; (2) accepting responsibility; (3) making restitution; (4) genuinely repenting; and (5) requesting forgiveness.
According to the Bible, repentance is the ultimate communication leading to forgiveness and resulting in a restored relationship. Repentance consists of (1) acknowledging your sin; (2) accepting responsibility without defending yourself; (3) understanding the severity and repercussions for what you have done; (4) humbling yourself and requesting forgiveness; (5) knowing that mercy and grace are not deserved; (6) expressing a sincere desire and intention to change your ways (7) doing what you need to do to restore the relationship. [in no particular order]
Psalm 51 is an excellent example of David’s true repentance for a very specific sin against God. It’s an amazing declaration of his love and devotion to God, as well as an expression of his desire to be cleansed and live as a righteous man. It’s an example of how we should seek to heal and restore our human relationships.
Repentance is so much more than an apology. It’s completely turning away from the course you are on and committing yourself to God’s ways (or in human relational language: committing yourself fully to the relationship you are seeking to restore). Repentance is not something that works by picking and choosing elements that suit you – as The Five Languages of Apology suggests.
My pastor did an illustration some time ago. He called someone up from the congregation and told the man to ask for his Bible. The man asked the pastor for his Bible. The pastor gave the man his Bible. Then the pastor said, “Keep asking for my Bible.” The man kept asking for the Bible even as he held it in his hands. The pastor turned to the congregation and said, “How foolish does he look? He has what he asked for. He received it the first time he asked. Now, what is he going to do with it?”
Forgive(v.): to pardon an offense or an offender (dictionary.com)
Forgiveness(n): act of forgiving; state of being forgiven; disposition or willingness to forgive (dictionary.com)
Forgiveness is rather simple. It’s a matter of letting things go. Not holding on to hurts and infractions. No longer resenting the person who caused offense. It’s about moving on from where you were. Those are all pluses for the forgiver.
Not so simple is what comes after. From my recent experiences, the offenders/transgressors remain in the same spot. Waiting for you to return and participate in the same habits that led to the offense. They don’t want things to change. They’re free to offend and happy to receive forgiveness in a continual cycle. They’re just being themselves, after all, and if you love them you’ll accept them as they are. Repeat offenders are master manipulators. They aren’t interested in experiencing the consequences of their actions. According to them, there shouldn’t be any! Receiving forgiveness does not absolve you from the consequences for your behavior (i.e. reaping what you’ve sown). Every action has a reaction. Every cause has an effect. Each step is followed by another step. We are never in the same position twice. Even when we move backwards we are aware of what’s coming towards us because we’ve been there before.
The consequence of treating someone badly is that the relationship will not be what it was before the ill-treatment, even after forgiveness has been given. That doesn’t have to be a negative. Success usually comes after many failures. For me, personally, the relationship is either better and stronger or nothing. Either way, I’m going to keep moving. Keep learning and keep growing. My hope is that the other party is moving with me, because I refuse to allow myself to remain in any situation I feel I am continually being taken advantage of.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life, but a deceitful tongue crushes the spirit. ~ Prov 15:1, 4
My friend Jemini was mentioned several times in my book, My God and Me: Listening, Learning and Growing on My Journey. Every time I wrote anything about her, I told her about it and asked if she wanted to read it. When I completed the manuscript I asked her if she would review it and provide feedback. She wasn’t interested. A month before I published she read a snippet of a Dichotomy of Jemini (a piece about relationship-changing verbal attacks she made against me). I later confirmed she didn’t read the whole piece. She took offense at a couple of sentences and stopped speaking to me. From the moment her treatment of me changed I knew she had read something. [Dichotomy of Jemini causes the most commotion at my readings, so I understand there’s some uneasy controversy in it. However, I am not remorseful for publishing it. It speaks of a lesson I learned as does the rest of the book of personal essays.]
Dichotomy of Jemini outlines a relationship I put much more value on than the other party. It touches on remarks Jemini made that wounded me. It goes on to discuss how I brought the issue to her attention and she told me I misunderstood her words, then she made excuses and eventually she avoided the issue altogether. She never acknowledged that she hurt me (rather she intended to or not). She never took responsibility. She never apologized. She wanted to forget that we had a disagreement and act like we did before the “episode”.
But I had already changed. Her words had already been spoken. You can’t take back what’s already been done but you can make amends for it. So, more months passed and I was promoting my book. (As I said, I keep moving.) When Jemini decided she wanted to be “friends” again, she staged a “make-up” call, during which she blew the piece up in a way to make herself out as the victim. I was wrong and unfair; and worse I wasn’t seeking to heal the breach. How can she forget the “episode” if everyone was reading about it?
I decided to sit back and do nothing during this second act. Jemini trailed a long line of people who took me and my friendship for granted. I had never asked her for anything, except her sincere and honest friendship. Then the time came when I asked her for an apology and expalnation for her behavior towards me.
She didn’t have any sincere honesty for me. More avoidance, deflecting and excuses.
Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. ~ Prov 16:24
I had to sit back and think about how so many people have been comfortable treating me so cavalierly and then setting me aside. The answer I came to: I forgave when they asked and forgot their transgressions without requiring anything from them. No expression of repentance, no sincere/specific apology and no attempt to make amends. I was always giving of myself and going home empty.
Now, I’m asking for something in my relationships. I want to be wooed. I want to know you’re not just after a comfortable foot stool or a quiet ear. I need to know you’re interested in contributing to and sustaining a relationship with me. I need to know I’m not in it alone.
Jemini isn’t coping well with LaShawnda version 2010. Apparently, I spoil people with the full force of my personality and affection when they’re in my good graces. The other day, Jemini told me I was difficult to figure out. I wasn’t returning her calls like I used to. I didn’t come by and lounge with her and her family on lazy Sunday afternoons anymore. Her husband had told me earlier in the week that she and the kids missed me and I should stop by. I told him my bell worked just as well as theirs did and my phone was functioning too.
He looked taken aback. I had never been so abrupt with them. I’ve become so fed up with putting out so much on the front end that the other person doesn’t know how to hold up the back end. Meaning, if my effort is driving the relationship, it’s all going to fall apart when I stop, let go, sit back. Who wants a relationship like that? A relationship that only functions when you function? I don’t. I now take issue with making all the outward effort. If you want to see me, but you can wait until I come to you (like you always do), well, keep on waiting. You want to hang out, but only in your house, with your kids, talking about your life, fine, hang out. I have stuff I need to do, I’ll see you later. You want to do this or that because it’s convenient for you, go ahead, I’m not interested in tagging along.
I’m done setting myself aside too. I’m not saying everything should be about me. I am saying relationships should be balanced. They should blend the personalities and lives of the involved parties.
Back to Jemini…. My response to Jemini’s comment that I’m difficult to figure out was, “I’m very simple.”
She gave a disbelieving roll of the eyes and said, “I’m gonna write a book to help your husband out, ‘cause he’s gonna have some problems.”
I looked over at her children and thought about sharing the non-secret key. I had done so previously and she had even commented on it in nearly each of our conversations. Your fans miss you. Your groupies want to see you. She calls her children my fans and groupies because they shower me with affection. Simple, sincere, honest affection that’s seeking after its own kind. The kids don’t care who’s in a bad mood, who doesn’t want to be bothered, who’s angry at whom – each visit begins and ends with a kiss and hug from each of them. Exuberant, cheerful, excited, loving, raucous, uninhibited. They chant my name before they see me, they jump up and down to open the door (it’s rare that I cross the threshold without someone jumping into my arms first). Their smiles remove every drop of gloom or sadness in my heart from the moment I see them, no matter how difficult my day may have been. The children aren’t hiding their affection. They’re overt and shameless. And guess what? So am I. I chase after them. I toss them in the air and swing them in circles. I hug them tight and kiss their cheeks. I ask about their day, their new friends and listen to whatever else they want to tell me. It’s a mutual pursuit.
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he (Jesus) took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them. ~ Mark 10:13-16
Don’t miss this! You have to receive the kingdom of God like a little child or you will never enter it! Children aren’t trying to save face. They’re not concerned with having the upper hand and never admitting to a wrong. God has gifts for us. Many of His blessings can be found in our relationships. If you’re not open and exuberant about the people in your life, then you can’t be alarmed when they gravitate towards people who are. If you treat your friends as if you can take them or leave them, chances are they’ll leave.
Children don’t remember wrongs, hurts, or anger. They’re quick to love and quick to forgive. The world teaches us differently as we age. We “grow” out of such child-like behavior and “mature” into being suspicious of everyone, not needing anyone, telling little lies and omitting whole truths.
An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips. ~ Prov 24:26 NIV
Being emotionally honest may sound too simple to be effective when looking back from a heart that’s been bruised, scared and broken. In adulthood our emotional honesty may have ended painfully with us vowing never to open ourselves again; never to reveal the truth of our feelings; to keep our love to ourselves; to get what we can out of others without exposing our need for so much more. If you’re hiding, camouflaging, fronting, popping your collar and slapping hi-fives to the boys and shouting you-go-girl’s to the girls then you’re not being honest about where you are. You’re putting on a show. There’s no sincerity in your approach. No honor in your staying around.
At some point you have to accept responsibility for the damage you made to a relationship. Even if you’ve already been forgiven, just confessing your error goes a long way to eliminating resistance to interacting with you.
I’m not too proud to say, I need love. Affection goes a long way to improving a person’s disposition. Like anyone else, I flower when you pour the love on. A hug and a soft word can bring an end to battles. If a relationship has gotten to a point that I fold up my petals, it’s not because I want it that way, I simply need to be wooed into unfurling.
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! ~ Psalm 119:103