I've been reading a lot of C.S. Lewis lately. Just snippets of his books, since what I have is a devotional type book called A Year with C.S. Lewis. I really, really, really like C.S. Lewis and everything he has to say because he just puts things in such a way that makes sense to me. Often times, it's things that I've thought about, but he puts them in much better terms.
So one topic that has struck me lately is forgiveness. He talks about how, often times, when we ask forgiveness from God, we make up excuses for why we did what we did. But there's a difference between forgiving and excusing because excusing means that the person was not to blame for what happened, while forgiving means that they did something, but you will not hold it against them. So you can pray that God would forgive you for something, but really, what we're really asking is for God to accept our excuses. So sometimes we feel like we have repented, but really, we have "satisfied ourselves with our own excuses."
Another important point he makes when we are forgiving others is that sometimes we don't want to forgive others because that means we are acting like it didn't happen, but really, if that were the case, then there would be nothing to forgive. It doesn't mean that if a person broke a promise to you, you have to believe him the next time. But you must "make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart--every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out."
AND to bring these two points together, he says, "The difference between this situation and the one in which you are asking God's forgiveness is this. In our own case we accept excuses too easily; in other people's we do not accept them easily enough."
I like to make excuses. A lot. When I apologize to people, I tend to explain what I was thinking or why I did what I did... but that's not really apologizing. It's like this quote I read when I was at VISTA training: "Never ruin an apology with an excuse."
"A great deal of our anxiety to make excuses comes from not really believing in it, from thinking that God will not take us to Himself again unless He is satisfied that some sort of case can be made out in our favour. But that would not be forgiveness at all. Real forgiveness means looking steadily at the sin, the sin that is left over without any excuse, after all allowances have been made, and seeing it in all its horror, dirt, meanness, and malice, and nevertheless being wholly reconciled to the man who has done it. That, and only that, is forgiveness, and that we can always have from God if we ask for it." (The Weight of Glory)
And I guess unless you learn about God's forgiveness and really, really understand it, you can't fully forgive others. Or yourself.