The Hardest Eight Words

The curious lad lingered around the blacksmith shop watching the old smith work. The boy was always getting in the way and into things, but the smith tried to be patient, remembering that he had once been an inquisitive kid.

The smith began hammering links of white hot iron into horseshoes. Having finished one, he tossed it into a sand pile to cool. The boy ran over to it, and, before the smith could warn him, he picked it up. He didn’t hold it long, though. With a slight smile, the blacksmith said, “Hot, ain’t it?” but the swaggering lad replied, “No, it just don’t take long to look at a horseshoe.”

Well, it might be caffeine for our soul to honestly admit our hurts and ask for help. It might enliven our spirits to vulnerably acknowledge our mistakes and ask forgiveness. Oh, we don’t need to learn to be better victims, and we certainly don’t need to become users who mooch off others.

Most of us are normal, healthy people who don’t enjoy needing to ask for help. We all need enough humility to know when to ask for help after life has robbed us and left us half-dead. We need enough self-awareness to know when we have messed up and need to acknowledge it, apologize, and ask for forgiveness.

Jesus once talked about the “unforgivable sin.” No one is certain what he meant. In my own life, there is only one sin/mistake for which we cannot be forgiven, and that is the sin/mistake that we cannot acknowledge. We cannot receive forgiveness if we do not believe we need it. Even the restoring power of God’s grace cannot break through our pretense of perfection and invulnerability. That doesn’t mean God won’t forgive us if we don’t confess, but it does mean we can’t experience Divine forgiveness.

Further, we cannot be reconciled to our neighbors if we pretend that we have not given offense or made a mistake. Even if they are good enough souls to forgive us anyway, it does our souls no good unless we can be vulnerable and open. What empowers forgiveness to transform us is being able to say, “I was wrong. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

Somehow those seem to be the hardest eight words for most of us to say. Ironically, we pretend we don’t need to say them because we don’t want to appear to have a weakness or flaw, yet that is the clearest sign of emotional and spiritual immaturity. The wise and healthy person acknowledges their mistakes often, not because they make more of them, but because they are secure in the power of grace.

by Michael Piazza
Co-Executive Director
The Center for Progressive Renewal

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