Forgiving an “I’m Sorry I Got Caught” Apologizer

I received an “I’m Sorry I Got Caught” apology after I read something that was not intended for me to see.

A friend forwarded an email from her child serving a mission. She wanted me to read what that child said about the letters and cards I send. She forgot that she also forwarded her email, to her child, where she had made a cutting remark about a member of my family.

I probably should not have read her email, but I was curious to see what she wrote to uplift and inspire her missionary. I thought I might learn from her example. I never fathomed I would read a derogatory comment that would hurt my feelings.

I re-read her email multiple times and stewed about it for a couple of hours. Finally, I emailed her and confessed I should not have, but I did read her forwarded email and the comment she made about my family member. I told her I was sorry she felt that way.

Later, she emailed and telephoned me to apologize. The call was uncomfortable. It felt like an “I’m sorry I got caught,” apology because she obviously thought those things and felt the need to put them down on paper.

I began to question every exchange I have ever had with her. I wondered, what else has she said or written behind my back? Has she thought and expressed cutting remarks all along and I am just now finding out?

The truth is: None of us could measure up to that type of scrutiny.

I know I have said catty things to my husband that I would be mortified if people overheard. Haven’t we all said or thought something unkind that we would be embarrassed or ashamed to have repeated to the person’s face?

I have a friend, Anne, who is the perfect example of unfeigned kindness.

I served as her first counselor in ward and stake young women’s presidencies, which afforded me an opportunity to observe her in a variety of settings. Even when things went wrong or someone did not follow through on an assignment, she was always, always, always kind and patient. She just put a smile on her face and laughed and carried on.

I used to joke that I wanted to slap her sometimes because she was always so happy and positive. (I told you, I’m not a nice person but I am working on it. And, no, I never actually slapped her.) Anne is an inspiration to me of someone who has learned to be kind and forgiving in a Christ-like way.

Anne would never carry this burden. She would laugh it off like nothing ever happened. I know this woman did not intentionally set out to hurt my feelings and she seemed to truly feel bad that she had.

Jean Paul Sartre said, “Freedom is what you do with what’s been done to you.”Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you.

She apologized and now it is my responsibility to forgive and let go.

Anger, hurt feelings, resentment, grudges, hate, and vengeance are heavy burdens to carry. They crush our spirit and cut us off from the Lord. “For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another” (3 Nephi 11:29).

Alexander Pope wrote: “To err is human, to forgive divine.” (An Essay on Criticism)

Turning the other cheek, giving others the benefit of the doubt, overlooking fault, letting go, showing compassion, forgiving and forgetting are all divine attributes that invite the Spirit of Christ into our lives. Jesus said: “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). I want that—but for me it requires work to change my heart and way of thinking.

President Deiter F. Utchdorft said:

“Forgiving ourselves and others is not easy. In fact, for most of us it requires a major change in our attitude and way of thinking—even a change of heart. But there is good news. This “mighty change” of heart is exactly what the gospel of Jesus Christ is designed to bring into our lives. How is it done? Through the love of God.” (Ensign, May 2012, 76.)

In the whole scheme of things, this is such a minor offense—she did not destroy my life or burn down my home. I need to let this go and move on with my life. I can do that, through the Atonement. No matter the gravity of the offence, through Jesus Christ’s love and sacrifice, my broken heart can be healed.

Isaiah wrote: “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: …and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:4–5)

President Uchtdorf further explained how this is done: “The pure love of Christ can remove the scales of resentment and wrath from our eyes, allowing us to see others the way our Heavenly Father sees us: as flawed and imperfect mortals who have potential and worth far beyond our capacity to imagine. Because God loves us so much, we too must love and forgive each other.” (Ensign, May 2012, 76.)

Sheri Dew described her father as a faithful priesthood holder who was always true to his word.

However, she also said, he “had an Achilles heel—a temper he never conquered. We knew he loved us, but we often bore the brunt of his anger. And anger always complicates relationships.” Amazed by Grace Sheri Dew

“One afternoon a few days before he died, I was sitting at his bedside as he slept. Suddenly I found myself asking the Lord to forgive him for years of angry outbursts. I wasn’t praying that I could forgive him; I was praying for his eternal well-being.”

“As I prayed, something unexplainable happened to me; in an instant, I felt decades of hurt simply fall away.”

“The feeling was spiritual, but it was also tangible—even physical. I could remember my dad’s anger, but I couldn’t feel any of the related pain or disappointment. It was gone. It was beauty for ashes. It was sweet.”

It was grace.” (Amazed by Grace, p.6-7)

Forgiveness does not mean I am okay with or understand what the other person has done. It does mean I let go of my anger, resentment, hurt, bitterness, or whatever other negative feeling I have and free myself from their burden.

Dr. Andrea Brandt explains,

“Forgiveness puts the final seal on what happened that hurt you. You will still remember what happened, but you will no longer be bound by it.” (Psychology Today)

And Elder James E. Faust taught,

“If we can find forgiveness in our hearts for those who have caused us hurt and injury, we will rise to a higher level of self-esteem and well-being. Some recent studies show that people who are taught to forgive become “less angry, more hopeful, less depressed, less anxious and less stressed,” which leads to greater physical well-being. 9 Another of these studies concludes “that forgiveness … is a liberating gift [that] people can give to themselves.” (General Conference, April 2007)

There is a Spanish tale of a father and son who had become estranged after years of bitter strife. One day the son ran away. Discovering his son missing, the father was brokenhearted and set off to find him. Weeks of search became months to no avail. Finally, in a last desperate act, the father placed an ad in the local newspaper. The ad read: “Dear Paco, Meet me in front of the bell tower in the plaza at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father.” That Saturday 800 Pacos—men and boys—showed up in the plaza, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers. (Anonymous folk tale).

Check out these for more helps:

Forgiving and Moving On: Pack Lightly by Nanette O’Neal

Idea List: Letting Grudges Go by Tamera Leatham Bailey

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Sign by Courtney Aitken. Please check out her site All Things Bright and Beautiful to download

Is there a Paco in your life you need to forgive?

Have you felt the healing that comes from forgiving and letting go?

8 Comments

  1. Tanja,

    This is a magnificent post! Thank you for your wise counsel and advice. The quotes you used are perfect and exactly right to make your point.

    I have so much forgiving to do in my life and do much forgiveness to seek. I’d better get started today.

  2. I am so grateful, you are willing to share your thoughts, experiences and feelings! Thank you for this gentle reminder?

  3. Once again you have turned a “killer” experience into something inspirational. I immediately had the thought that since you have let Heavenly Father know that you are trying to change your heart He must have said, ‘Well, OK, then, you asked for it. Don’t be surprised at what comes down the conveyor belt your way.” How do we know our heart has changed and our capacities enlarged unless we are smacked with a huge test like the one you wrote about? (My stomach still aches for both of you.) This is another WIN-WIN from the Lord. The other party, through a horribly painful event, has learned a never-to-be-forgotten lesson and you have shown that you are capable of meeting and conquering the most brutal of affronts! Wow! Way to be amazing! I don’t think I could have handled it so well. Thanks again for your honesty! I love the way you write and share. : )

    • Thank you, Nancy, for our words of encouragement. This is my new outlet for writing. I appreciate that anyone comes to read what I’ve rambled about and takes time to respond. Seriously, thank you.

  4. I love you, your honesty, your ability to teach and heal…yourself and others. Thank you.

  5. Tanja- I was so moved by the original article I read about you and your husband adopting your son. I came over to your website and I found more inspiration here . I have a dry member of the LDS church for about 15 years now . I’ve had my calling as a Boy Scout leader for six years. Something I’ve noticed, when ever I am really drawn to somebody, 90% of the time, they turn out to be LDS. You and you website are a blessing and you are a builder!

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