Seeking forgiveness

David Crumm, a veteran religion writer and columnist at the Detroit Free Press, makes an ingenious gift suggestion for Christmas: Offer a heartfelt apology to somebody.

Crumm turns to the Rev. Robert Dulin Jr., pastor of the Metropolitan Church of God, to explain the difference between a real apology and a fake:

He straightened up, summoned a deep baritone and declared with wooden authority, "If what I have said or done might have offended anyone, then I am sorry."

He laughed derisively. "That's not an apology! That's an explanation mixed up with an excuse!"

In an essay on fighting in marriage, my friend Gray Temple Jr., longtime rector of St. Patrick's Episcopal Church in Atlanta, reflects on five steps toward offering a person real forgiveness. This step is what has best challenged me:

4. Pray and intend the other's prosperity
Persistent anger is pretty close to what ancient primitive people meant by a "curse." In praying for another's prosperity, we break whatever curse we'd laid on them. I suppose that is a form of blessing, but I've found that when I try to bless someone who has hurt me I wind up doing something like this: "O God, bless So-and-So with some insight into his own obnoxious character." Rather than pray such a prayer -- a religious-looking curse -- I find it best to pray, "O God, you know what he needs and wants; please supply them both richly. When I see him prosper and happy, I'll know you have listened to me." That's very difficult, but you can do it if you clench your teeth.

Early in my life, my father taught me a valuable lesson in asking people's forgiveness: Seek it quickly, and seek it face to face. Once, when I had insulted the principal of a Catholic boys' high school with my reckless driving, my father insisted that I make an appointment with that principal and ask his forgiveness face to face. It was mortifying and, because this good priest extended forgiveness readily, it was glorious.

Help us out, readers: Do you have any favorite stories of forgiveness -- whether of seeking it or extending it?

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