Though it happened more than 30 years ago, I still remember one Sunday after church when I had decided to give my husband "the silent treatment" because something he said after church in jest had hurt my feelings. I never have been an advocate of the silent treatment because I feel it is not productive but at the moment, that was exactly what I was doing.
Of course, since I wasn't my usual chatty self, he noticed immediately that something was wrong and asked me about it. I curtly replied, "Nothing" and then felt a sudden twinge of guilt. That wasn't true. Something was wrong and I was only going to make things worse if I denied it. I took a deep breath and let my hurt tumble out.
Now if my husband would have trivialized my hurt or even told me he didn't mean it, the story may very well have played out differently. It may have become the foundation upon which more and more hurt feelings were piled on until they would have destroyed our marriage. Instead, what he did set a precedent for our family. The first words that came out of his mouth were, "I'm sorry that I have hurt you." There were no excuses or justifications. He allowed those words to just sink deeply into my heart for a few moments.
This sent me two messages. First of all, he did not mean to hurt me and secondly, he cared about how I felt. My feelings were important to him. I remember my eyes filled with tears as he continued. "I did not mean to hurt you but that doesn't matter. I did hurt you and I am sorry. Will you please forgive me?"
I could not tell you what he had said that hurt me. I could not tell you if I was justified or if I was merely being overly-sensitive. However, I have never forgotten his response and the valuable lesson he taught me about forgiveness. Regardless of our intentions, regardless if the person is overreacting, when we have hurt someone and it is brought to our attention, we need to take it very seriously and we need to ask their forgiveness.