The Twos Rs

It takes one person to forgive, it takes two people to be reunited.”

Lewis B. Smedes – The Art of Forgiving: When You Need To Forgive And Don’t Know How

Harkening back to last Monday’s discussion (which was on hiatus during the height of the San Diego fires), one reason I think that forgiveness and the “two Rs”– Restoration and Reconciliation–aren’t necessarily synonymous is because forgiveness is fundmentally a personal choice.  A “solo act.”  A Scriptural imperative, forgiveness boils down to a decision of the will.  No one can choose forgiveness for you.  You choose it, own it for yourself.   Reconciliation and restoration, on the other hand, take two.  It’s a duet.

Think of the two Rs like a Viennese waltz.  Ever try to waltz by yourself?  Sure, you can dress up, splash on some nice perfrume, arrive on time, enter the dance floor and try the first few steps alone.  But a waltz, to be a waltz, requires a partner.  It takes two.  The other person has to be there, and be engaged.  So it is with the two Rs: Reconciliation and Restoration.  You can’t do it alone.  (I know.  I’ve tried.)  If the other party isn’t interested, it may be time to leave the dance floor and move on.

Another reason forgiveness doesn’t always result in a restored relationship is because one or more of the necessary elements in the restorative process has been overlooked, neglected, or otherwise short-circuited by one or both parties.  To be fully reconciled, sincere repentance needs to enter the equation.*  Once gently confronted (Galatians 6:1-5, etc.), the offender must assume responsibility for his or her actions at some point.  Ideally, this should translate into an intelligent apology from the offender and an acceptance of the apology by the offendee.

Now by “apology” I don’t mean some mamby-pamby, meaningless babble  – a string of careless, thoughtless words necklaced together like tarnished pearls on a chain.  Have you ever heard “I’m sorry you got your feelings hurt.”  This is Exhibit A in “meaningless babble.”  That’s not an apology, that’s a Texas Two-Step.  That kind of response sidesteps responsibility.  It essentially shifts the focus off the offender’s actions and blames the other person for having feelings.  While it’s true that we’re all responsible for our own feelings, this doesn’t absolve us of the consequences when our words or actions wound someone else.  Nor does shifting blame solve the situation or heal the wounding.  

If the whole point of an apology, however humbling or difficult, is to effect the next step toward reconciliation, the above example and those of similar ilk don’t cut it, do they?   Why?  Because an apology that lacks the essential elements of regret and a request for pardon is combative.  Contentious.  Arrogant, self-centered and sanctimonious.  It’s a battle cry, not a repentent whisper.  So is, “I have nothing to apologize for!”  Ever heard that one?  If someone’s taken the time and trouble to confront you with an issue, she obviously sees things differently!  In a situation like this–even if you honestly feel you “didn’t do anything wrong”–can you see the bigger picture?  Is “wrongdoing” the sole reason for apologizing?  Rather than arguing the point or trading accusations ad infinitum, ad nauseum, how about apologizing to save the relationship?


“Forgiving does not usually happen at once. It is a process, sometimes a long one, especially when it comes to wounds gouged deep. And we must expect some lapses…some people seem to manage to finish off forgiving in one swoop of the heart. But when they do, you can bet they are forgiving flesh wounds. Deeper cuts take more time and can use a second coat.”

Lewis B. Smedes – The Art of Forgiving: When You Need To Forgive And Don’t Know How

Continued at the next post.

Laus Deo.


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