A few months ago I swallowed my pride and apologized to someone because I had hurt their feelings. I said “I am sorry,” and they replied, “I accept your apology.” I was relieved to hear that and we were able to move on.
Thinking back to that moment, though, I believe there is a difference between saying, “I accept your apology,” and “I forgive you.” Accepting my apology simply receives my admission of guilt but gives nothing in return. But when someone says, “I forgive you,” they have given me a priceless gift.
Forgiveness is costly. God’s forgiveness costs the life of Jesus on the cross. After our confession, the words of absolution, “I forgive you all your sins,” are His precious gift to us. “Apology accepted” would leave me wondering how God felt about all this. Forgiveness, on the other hand, leaves no doubt. We’re good!
In a similar way, when I say, “Thank you,” I mostly hear the reply, “No problem.” When I get a “You’re welcome,” I do a double take. “No problem” simply receives your gratitude as if it were no big deal. I simple “You’re welcome” raises the value of your appreciation.
Maybe it’s not a big deal. But since that moment, I have consciously and deliberately said, “I forgive you” and “You’re welcome.” In a time when I am more likely to hear impatient, angry and abusive words, I want people to know I value and appreciate them.