Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Lessons in Accident Recovery
Lately I got to watch some interpersonal drama up close. No details, but it offered an opportunity to examine the inner workings of how people hurt other people, and how it's corrected.
When Person One (let's call him Sam) hurts Person Two (let's call him Joe), how is the situation to be mended and the relationship repaired? Most people would say that healing comes when Sam apologizes to Joe. The apology fixes everything, and the faster Sam says, "Oh, I'm sorry," the better things will be, right?
I like to think of it rather like a car accident where one driver is clearly at fault. He broke a rule of the road, or did something foolish, and he crashed into another car. It's all Sam's fault, but still ... both cars are damaged. Both cars need to be repaired.
When Sam hurts Joe, both people are damaged. Sam has damaged himself by sinning, and he's really damaged Joe by sinning against him. We usually think that Sam will heal Joe's damage by apologizing. I think this is erroneous.
I think when Sam apologizes to Joe, Sam is only healing himself. Joe's damage remains, sadly. Hearing an apology does nothing to help him. Sam renders his apology and goes his merry way. He's said he's sorry and his guilty conscience is assuaged. There's really nothing else he can do.
But the damaged party, Joe? He's left still feeling hurt and wronged, and because the apology has been given, he feels he has no right to feel hurt anymore. It's supposed to be over. He's supposed to feel better, but he doesn't.
This is where personal hurt is so bad -- the perpetrator can get over it in a snap! As easy as it was for him to do the damage, it is equally easy for him to repair the damage he's done to himself. He probably isn't aware he damaged himself. And ... (here's the clincher) ... even though he caused the damage to Joe, there's absolutely nothing Sam can to do heal the damage he's done to Joe. Nothing.
Joe has to heal his own damage, and the only way to do that is to forgive. Forgiveness can be a long, painful, grueling process, depending on the situation. The Sams of the world sometimes move on with their lives after their sinning, while their victims struggle in a little trail behind them, trying to forgive, trying to self-heal damage done by someone else.
And we criticize people who struggle to forgive. We assume the forgiveness should follow swiftly on the heels of the apology, rather like dessert after dinner. But the two things are separate, and (I think) rather unconnected. The apology heals the abuser. The forgiveness heals the abused. Each one needs healing, and the healings occur independently. We should never look at someone who's been hurt a few minutes before, after the hurter has just apologized, and say to the hurtee, "There! See? He apologized! Don't you feel all better?" Of course not. Sam the Apologizer feels better. Joe remains the same. Removing his damage will take longer because it was produced in a different way.
I'll have to test this theory in life to see if it holds water, but I suspect it will prove true. What do you think?