But the trouble is that what we call “asking God’s forgiveness” very often really consists in asking God to accept our excuses. What leads us into this mistake is the fact that there usually is some amount of excuse, some “extenuating circumstances.” We are so very anxious to point these out to God (and to ourselves) that we are apt to forget the really important thing; that is, the bit left over, the bit which the excuses don’t cover, the bit which is inexcusable but not, thank God, unforgivable. And if we forget this, we shall go away imagining that we have repented and been forgiven when all that has really happened is that we have satisfied ourselves with our own excuses.
What we have got to take to him is the inexcusable bit, the sin. We are only wasting time by talking about all the parts which can (we think) be excused. When you go to a doctor you show him the bit of you that is wrong – say, a broken arm. It would be a mere waste of time to keep on explaining that your legs and eyes and throat are all right. ~ C.S. Lewis
Continuing a thread from yesterday’s post, I’ve decided to make this the freedom of forgiveness week. C.S.Lewis’ great section on forgiveness from The Weight of Glory always has held particular irony for me. I spent most of my life starting every doctor’s appointment by apologetically saying, “I don’t meant to complain…” No matter how sick I was, I didn’t want to complain to a doctor so I could get a cure. I always understated my symptoms. In a similar fashion, when seeking forgiveness I found it to be so much more palatable to explain and rationalize and understate so that the other person, or God, would see how my offense was really not so bad, given the ‘extenuating circumstances’.
I got tired of myself a while back and started simply saying, I’ve wronged you. Please forgive me. Freedom comes in taking an honest look at the inexcusable bits. My denial only covered it up. His grace covers it all.