We have been addressing the issues surrounding self-government, and this includes our emotional deportment towards others. People without self-control collide with one another, because their vices collide and because their emotions follow suit. In a selfish world, people often grab for the same thing.
This leads to the plainest and most obvious litmus test for us—our willingness to extend forgiveness. Self-absorbed people cannot forgive, and forgiven people necessarily forgive. And the Lord Jesus laid it down in the plainest possible way that those who refuse to forgive wrongs against them are not forgiven themselves.
So it would be good for us to dwell for a moment on what forgiveness is. This is a central aspect of our faith—we say every week when we recite the creed that we believe in “the forgiveness of sins.” Do we?
When we ask for God to forgive us, are we actually do so? Or are we asking God to accept our excuses? These are very different activities. When we say that we forgive our brother, are we doing the same thing? Accepting his excuses, agreeing not to examine them too closely? But this is not forgiveness at all. Forgiveness only occurs with the inexcusable.
You can pardon someone who bumps into you accidentally. And that is what they ask for—they say “pardon me.” But if someone sees you standing there, lowers his head, and runs over the top of you, he would not say “pardon me” unless he was adding insulting sarcasm to his other sins. His behavior is inexcusable, and is therefore forgivable.
We seek forgiveness for our sins, not for our blunders and miscalculations. Others seek forgiveness from us for their sins, and not for their mistakes and infelicities. And how we respond when the need for this arises tells us where we are spiritually. Self-control is one of the Spirit’s graces that enable you to seek forgiveness when you need to, and to extend forgiveness when you need to.