A four-year-old friend held up her finger to show me a little bandage that covered some minor injury. “Owie,” I said. “How did that happen?”
“Grandma did it,” she said.
I know her grandma. Grandma would rather eat her own head than cause even a scratched finger to any child, much less to her granddaughter.
“Oh, I’m sure she didn’t mean to do it,” I said.
“It still hurts.”
“I’ll bet Grandma said she was sorry.”
“Yes,” she said. “But sorry doesn’t make the hurt go away.”
Indeed. Sorry does not make the hurt go away. This grandma probably said she was sorry a dozen times, kissed the boo-boo, and applied antiseptic and the bandage along with hugs and ice cream, but that wouldn’t have been enough to forgive herself for accidentally hurting her first grandchild. Sorry doesn’t make the hurt go away on either side.
Sometimes it is easier to forgive a hurt made to us than it is to forgive one made by us. Forgiving another can be hard. Forgiving self can sometimes be even harder.
An accidental scratch made by a loving grandma is one thing. What about deeper, emotional hurts people inflict on others with words or acts? Sometimes we can see the effects right away. Sometimes, even years later, the relationship still smarts.
Jesus and Peter had such a hurt between them (John 21). The wise one knew that Peter needed to forgive himself for denying that he knew Jesus. It took up so much space in Peter’s heart that he would have trouble moving forward with his faith life. And so Jesus brought the hurt into the open. Peter was given three opportunities to profess his love (saying sorry in other ways), and three challenges to move on and leave this trouble behind.
Did the hurt go away? I don’t know. But it was fully acknowledged, and then lessened to the point that Peter could get on with his life.
Sorry may not make the hurt go away. But forgiveness of self can put hurt in its rightful place: a place from which we learn and grow.
© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2010