A few years ago, my mom and I were on a rare trip together. Our relationship had been pretty difficult all along. Finally, after more than 50 years, I was struck by a realization of what it was like for her to have me as her daughter! I felt remorseful about how challenging this must have been for her, and this is what I said:
“I’m so sorry, mom, that I was such a difficult daughter for you. I’m really sorry I was so irritable and prickly with you so much of the time.”
She responded, “It’s ok, honey. You know, I probably wasn’t the greatest mother for you either. And I wasn’t such a great daughter for my mom either.”
Now this doesn’t sound all that remarkable, EXCEPT that she was someone who was always right, who knew everything and who never made any mistakes. So to hear her apologize about anything at all almost made me drop to the floor. On top of this, I heard her blame her own mom all my life, so this concession to my grandmother knocked my socks off!
I learned a big lesson from this exchange with my mom. I learned that forgiveness, when it comes from a sincere and soft heart, generates more forgiveness.
This is not something I planned at the time. But for whatever reason, I was in a state of regret at that moment with my mom, and my regret led to a spontaneous apology, which in turn led her to apologize as well. Our guide, Sidi al Jamal, writes in his book, He Who Knows Himself Knows His Lord, tawba (or forgiveness) begins with a feeling of regret.
Whenever we are in separation of any kind – from people, from ourselves, from nature, from Allah – we want to return our heart to face Allah so that we can move into unity with our Lord.
So I encourage you to try this. Ask your heart right now, “Am I holding regrets?” and if it feels natural, then speak or write a note to someone in your life asking him or her for forgiveness. See what happens. You may be quite surprised as I was with my mom.
Tell us your stories of confession – what is your experience? Are you having a hard time forgiving? Do you know how to forgive? Share your thoughts below.