I was stuck in traffic on I-20 just east of Birmingham Thursday evening when my phone rang. In the previous 30 minutes, traffic had inched forward only about a hundred yards as emergency vehicles dealt with a wreck a mile or so ahead of us. I glanced at the ringing phone.
I don’t know what I expected, but I didn’t expect to see her name. How long had it been since we had talked? I didn’t recall. Why was she calling?
Part of me wanted to let it go to voicemail. Things hadn’t ended on a pleasant note for us. I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear from her. But I decided it would be cowardly to ignore the call, so I answered right before it would have gone to voicemail.
“I wasn’t sure you were going to answer,” she said.
”I almost didn’t,” I admitted.
We talked for about 20 minutes. At first, things felt tense. I was cautious since I didn’t know what she wanted. She was stumbling over her words, because — as she told me later in the conversation — she had been embarrassed to call.
She apologized for some things. The details don’t matter. She explained why she had done and said some things, but she admitted that explaining now didn’t mean she had been right at the time. She said she had known for a long time that she had been wrong, but her pride kept her from confessing that to me.
“I can’t go back and change anything now,” she said, “but I think we would have stayed together if I had been willing to call you a long time ago. I was willing to lose something I now regret losing just because I didn’t want to swallow my pride and call you.”
She asked for my forgiveness and I gladly gave it.
“Forgiveness is part of any relationship,” I said, “especially when you love someone.”
I don’t love her anymore. She never brought up the issue of whether she still loves me. It didn’t really matter. We just dealt with the past.
After we hung up, I drove to dinner thinking about forgiveness, but even more about the reasons we often don’t pursue reconciliation with those we love. Although it’s absurd, we often lose the relationships we need most — simply because we let something in our ego or personality get into the way of reaching out and making contact.
I sometimes allow my judgment of others to get into the way. If I am alienated from someone, I can tell you why — and I can list the reasons that it’s the other person’s fault. I can go over the details of what happened like the most skillful prosecutor. I can show you why you were wrong — and my hurting heart holds those things against you.
Other people have their own excuses. Some people are too arrogant. They can have too much pride to admit what they know in their hearts they ought to say. They can’t bring themselves to admit they might have been wrong — and so they lose what they really want just to avoid facing their fear of saying, “I was wrong.”
As I look back on my life, I see times when I needed to pick up a phone and call someone, but I didn’t. Other times, I’ve been willing to do the right thing. It’s varied.
I found myself realizing tonight that the process of forgiveness and reconciliation isn’t as “one way” as I might have always thought. In my conversation tonight, for instance, she called to ask forgiveness, but the conversation left me feeling as though it had been a two-way street — as though we had both asked for and received forgiveness.
Somehow, we both got something out of it. Even if I never talk to her again, there was power and there was peace in this feeling of being reconciled after so long.
If you need to reconcile with someone, isn’t this a perfect time to start? You can put aside your ego or your pride or your judgment. You don’t have to worry about what comes next. If you do what’s right, it will cleanse your soul, whether the other person accepts your peace offering or not.
Do you need to ask forgiveness? Do you need to reconcile a relationship that’s broken? Have the courage to pick up the phone and reach out right now.