It's Not "O.K."
From childhood, we teach our children, “I’m sorry.”
It seems innocent enough, but these few words that we teach our children have a great impact on the way we view life. So many adults I work with struggle because “It’s not o.k.” When it comes time to forgive, they can’t make themselves forgive. For them, forgiveness means that they are saying what the other person did was “o.k.” when it is NOT “o.k.”
First of all, “I’m sorry” doesn’t cut it. “I’m sorry” works when someone has died of natural causes and you have empathy for those who are still alive. It is an expression of emotional support for someone. Does an expression of emotional support work when one person has violated another person?
What works is a confession of guilt. It can start with “I’m sorry” but it needs to be completed with “I violated you by …”. As human beings, we have an inner sense of what is just and “I’m sorry” does not meet our need to hear truth. Forgiveness has a chance if and when there is a clear statement of “This is what I did that was not right!”
Second, it’s not o.k. Every sin, if it truly is a sin, has consequences. In our world, things have gotten very grey. People are getting wounded over all kinds of things that may or may not be significant. We need a statement of the wrong doing and something is wrong because it creates negative consequences. There are things that are truly harmful. There are things that are only harmful because it is perceived to be a slight in such a way that an individual creates his own pain. He truly is harming himself more than being harmed by others.
I had someone recently come to me saying, “I just don’t know if I can forgive the one who so deeply wounded me.” Again, the problem was “It’s o.k.” She perceived that forgiveness somehow meant that she was letting her violator go free.
I told her that letting the person go free cannot happen. Consequences are real. They stand. We don’t have the power to eliminate them. We can change how the consequences play out, but we cannot eliminate them. There are times when receiving the blows and not responding back in an ugly way shuts down an escalation of consequences. There are times when quietly suffering simply encourages the violator to do it again to you or others, and usually again and again and again.
This woman had an inner sense of justice that would not let her “forgive.” I shared with her that forgiveness does not have the power to eliminate consequences, but instead merely transfers the right to judge to God. When we let go of our right to judge, that does not mean that God holds the other person guiltless. He can and will actively work to shut down the sickness of the other person. It is much easier to forgive when we see God at work to bring justice than when we see God as saying “It’s all o.k. now.”
Today, we are not allowed to “judge.” Without a clear statement of guilt there is no idea of if we should forgive or if something is truly trivial. In some cases, we are truly being petty and just need to move on. There is no clear violation and certainly no real consequence other than the ones we are creating because we choose to be hurt. “Judgement” is needed. There are things that are harmful. There are things that are not. We need to know the difference. Otherwise, we get snowflakes.
Forgiveness does not mean forgetting. It does not mean we can’t impose consequences. It does not mean that we can or should treat the person as if the offense never happened. It does mean that we transfer the offense and our hurt to God in a way that we can hear His voice and respond as He directs us to respond. It may mean we absorb the blows, or it may mean we need to stand up to someone who will continue to injure others if we don’t stand up to him.
Forgiveness means we let go of the wound and let God be God. We let him direct our lives more than the wound directs our lives. Then we respond as He tells us to respond. We have a heart that is no longer controlled by the pain. It is free. It is able to love the violator. It is able to walk away from the violator. It does not remain fixated on the wound or the violator in a way that it cannot go on with life.
We tell our children “It’s o.k.” to get them to “move on.” Sometimes “moving on” is a good thing. But more often than not, we need a statement of guilt and a clear choice of where the consequences should land … or a transfer of how those consequences should land to God. That is healthy forgiveness.
One of the things that changed my life was learning to clearly state, “I was wrong …” with a clear statement of what I had done or said that was wrong finishing out the statement. The forgiveness is completed when the other person says, “I forgive you.” In other words, “I let go.” “It’s o.k.” may have some of the letting go in it. But there is power in the words, “I forgive you.”
Most of the time, “It’s not o.k.” But I choose to live in the healthiest possible way … which means I hand off the hurt to God. I hear from God. I respond in the best way to bring life and healing—whether that means standing firm, walking away, or absorbing the consequences.
There is a better way than “It’s o.k.”