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"Our Answer is God. God's answer is us. Through partnership we make our world better."
- Dorian Scott Cole

Transformation Series Article
Articles in the Transformation series are about personal and organizational transformation.

Can I Be Forgiven? Part 2.

Copyright © 2009 Dorian S. Cole


Where do we start turning things around? Sometimes it seems we are in such a deep hole and all we can do is keep digging. Is there a ladder back to the top, or is that wishful thinking? Is there anything, or too many things, that we have done that we can never get back? There is good news.

It's difficult to hold onto a positive thought when there is a mountain of guilt avalanching back into our thoughts and feelings. We've all done some very dumb things that have hurt others. We've all done some very selfish things at the expense of someone else. We've all justified our behavior with some ridiculous saying such as getting what we can while the getting is good. We've all made mistakes. We've all made bad choices. We've all been driven to worse behavior because we can't be big enough to apologize or even shake hands.

Some times we know we did something wrong. But sometimes we can't admit it, even to ourselves. It was the Buddha who made the astute observation that we treat those people who we have hurt, worse than we treat anyone else. It's is easier to go on hating and punishing someone we have harmed than to own up to what we have done.

The thing is, we probably would have made a better decision had we known the kind of pain it would cause them and us. Every day we have to live with the bitterness of having to hate someone. Every day we have to live with that gnawing feeling that we might not be right. Every day we have to live knowing that if we could just be big enough, we could end the conflict, but it isn't within us to do it. Is there a way out of this mess?

Yes. Definitely yes.

I'm going to tell you a secret. Smile. When we are in the grip of hard feelings, we look like it and everyone can tell. Drop the pained expression you get around other people, or some people, and smile. Or drop the depressed look, or the sudden change as if a black cloud suddenly appeared. Just smile. There are very sound, practical, everyday proven reasons why this will help, and I'm not going to go into all of them. Just this: A smile is warmth, it's a friendly gesture, and it's a signal to people that something is better, there is hope, and maybe the conflict and hard feelings can be resolved, and you might be a person worth being around.

Keep smiling, day after day. No, you haven't stepped forward and offered an apology, nor have you made the first move - and some people might rightfully expect this of you. But a lot of the ice will melt. It's a major step in the right direction. Oddly enough, sometimes other people are forgiving of us without being asked, and all it takes is a change on our part to make the problem go away.  A lot of minor damage can be overcome in this way.

Not everyone will like your smile. Unfortunately, the person you hurt may even be offended by it. They may be vindictive. They also need to be big - that isn't your problem. That's life - it is what it is.

Next, do a little soul searching. If you absolutely already know you are at fault, you need to be forgiven so you can move on. Anything less is vindictive. You may be vindictive toward yourself, believing you deserve to be punished. Others can want you to suffer forever. But that isn't the world that God inhabits. God created us with tremendous potential, and he didn't do that just for fun. He wants us to realize our potential and become more like him.

What does that mean, "become like God?" Does that mean throwing your life away, picking up some book of scripture and reading it 24 hours a day, giving up hobbies and sports, and living like a holy person in a reclusive area? No, not at all. Becoming like God is simply acting in good ways toward others: being concerned about their care and about their achieving their potential, being merciful, being forgiving, and being involved in making this a fair and just world. When people do this, they actually find it very rewarding. It also means your overcoming the things that hold you back, reaching your full potential, and gaining an abundant life.

The writer of the Gospel of Luke put it in perspective: "Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven..." - Luke 6: 36 - 37 RSV

If you don't know for certain that you are at fault and caused a hurt that you need forgiven for, then look for the truth. We very commonly justify our actions. We think, someone else or something "made" us do what we did. It was a mistake, we didn't mean to do it, and we would change it if we could. OK, but we are still responsible for our actions - so there was more involved and we aren't quite as guilty. But we still have some responsibility.

The first step in forgiveness is to just say, "You know what, I shouldn't have done that. I wish to God that it hadn't happened. But it did, and I have some responsibility for that." If you don't own it, you sure can't be forgiven for it. And if you refuse to own it, then it owns you for life.

The second step in forgiveness is to reach out beyond your pain. You have to forgive yourself, and God has to forgive you, and the injured person has to forgive you. Sometimes you don't achieve all of that. And sometimes you have to "make it right," for the person who was injured. Sometimes you can't. That's life. It is what it is.

That path is scary. First forgiving yourself, which means coming face to face with your guilt; then God, who is so perfect and powerful we tremble at the thought of saying, "Am I bad?" And then the person who we hurt, which we fear may bring all kinds of problems.

A woman came to Christ when he was dining with others, and she began washing his dusty feet with her tears and her hair. Some were outraged, knowing that she was a disrespected woman, possibly a prostitute, and she dared touch Christ, and he even allowed it.

Christ replied to them, "... I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven - for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." - Luke 7:47

God has no problem forgiving us, no matter how big the error of our ways. We can't get on with our lives until he does. He created us. He cares about what happens to us.

Every day that we live with guilt and no forgiveness, we continue walking in a direction away from the warmth and light of God and our fellow people. But every day that we walk toward forgiveness, is a step away from the cold and darkness and closer to warmth and light.

Ask God to forgive you. Give him some assurance that you are going to try to do better. That is all he asks. Ask for his help in maintaining a smile around other people. Ask him to help you eventually resolve your differences with others and ask for their forgiveness. Every day can be a step closer to being where you should be with others.

The Journey of the Israelites, led by Moses out of Egypt and into a new land, is made familiar to us all through many movies. It was not an easy journey. It was filled with dry and barren ground that produced no food and no water, and they had no shelter. Rumors and dissenting opinions were rampant, and conflict spread. It was more than Moses could do to lead them. It was more than the people could do to follow, and every day they thought about turning back from their quest for freedom and returning to slavery in Egypt.

The Israelites spent forty years in the wilderness, depending on God, but turned away from him at every turn. The Prophet Nehemiah said of God, "...but you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abundant in unshakable love, and you did not desert them." - Nehemiah 9:17

God doesn't turn away from us in our failures and our experimenting and our willfulness and craziness. He is always there for us. He wants us back. There are a lot of teachings in Jesus' ministry. But the central thrust of Jesus' ministry is primarily bringing people back to God through forgiveness. Imagine that, Jesus came primarily to bring back those who had lost their way. We call that reconciliation. You could say it means ending the conflict or making peace. It's a first step in transformation that brings a permanent smile and reaching our potential.

God has a bad door. It just won't close, and he is always happy to see us. The line of communication is always open for as long as we are alive. The sooner we ask for forgiveness, the sooner life can start getting better.

An earnest prayer for forgiveness
Father of us all, I know that you are understanding and always ready to forgive. You care about what happens to us. I have done something wrong and I feel in pain and filled with coldness and dark feelings. I want to be a better person, and I'll try. Be patient with me when I fail. I ask that you forgive me. I ask that you help me make it right with others, as much as it can be, and I leave the rest in your hands. Help me now to also forgive others, as you have forgiven me. Let it be so. 

Other forgiveness links:

Guilt, Forgiveness, and Justice - an article on the sister Web site.

The Forgiveness Web (forgiveness resource site) and their forgiveness links page.

Yours in Christ,

- Dorian Scott Cole

Author's Books

The Prophetic Pattern: Discussion Guide for Ancient and Modern Prophecy

Are we all going to die on Friday, December 21, 2012? My new book critically examines that question. Available in print and ebook formats from various sources. Secure credit card purchasing. Description.

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On Friday, December 21, 2012, are we all going to die? Are there really signposts to the world's end? Does modern prophecy really merge with ancient prophecy? Will all of the Christians suddenly disappear? The answers may surprise you.

Millions of Americans are anxiously waiting for December 21, 2012 to see if the world will end. Despite the fact that signs seem to be everywhere in all ancient and modern prophecy and even science, the major sign pointed to by both Daniel and Christ is overlooked by prophecy interpreters. And interpretation of modern prophecy overlooks intent. Like a scary movie, prophecy is great fun until it starts affecting people's lives.

This book explores how to distinguish the intent of various types of prophecies and oracles, both ancient and modern. The five chapters in this discussion guide are rich in information, providing one legitimate point of view, and are intended to encourage discussion and additional research. A ten meeting discussion group is the minimum recommended.

Subjects to explore include:

  • History, and the situations surrounding prophecy
  • Types of prophecy
  • Other interpretations of prophecy
  • Are faith and prophetic belief blind?
  • Societies that go bad - are they destroyed?
  • Social change - saving ourselves
  • The challenges of the 21st.Century

Available in print and ebook formats from various sources. Secure credit card purchasing.

About the author: Dorian Scott Cole is an independent, cross-disciplinary scholar with education and experience in psychology, philosophy, religion, language, visual semiotics, and technology. He is a licensed minister with a mainline denomination with full time pastoral and counseling experience. His education in religion and psychology was through a state university (IU) followed by independent study. Other books and publications: Ontology of God, How to Write a Screenplay, Writers Workshop Script Doctor,, and

Reading type: Mainstream, nonfiction.

Ontology of God: The voices of the ancients speak.

My recent book, Ontology of God, looks at what we can learn through the ages regarding the history of several aspects of religious development as affected by the ancient societies they were in, including law, mercy, and love. Available in print and ebook formats from various sources. Secure credit card purchasing. Description.
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Echoing through time are the voices of ancient people telling us about God. From Mesopotamia and Egypt 5000 years ago, often from even earlier oral traditions, every civilization has been inspired to tell us about God. Their voices vary widely and even conflict. Is there a common message that they thought was so important that they had to pass it on? In this book, the ancient voices speak.

This study follows the thread of the basic religious concepts of law, mercy, and love that are prominent in many religions. Major religions around the world are investigated up to the launch of the Common Era when most religions had been developed, including religions that later developed independently such as the Mayan.

These are messages refined by the fire of experience through the ages. The repeated messages collectively bear the tests of validity.

This study also looks at the many methods we use to try to understand God and religious literature. Is the nature of God reflected in what he asks of us? The premise is that it is.

By understanding the nature of God, perhaps we can filter out the many competing voices that tell us that God stands for such things as the murder of innocents and destruction.

The very nature of religion is illuminated in the light of the voices from the ages. But is ancient religion a path that we have lost, or does history hammer out newer voices to bear the truth of new experience as people try to understand their relationship with God?

Available in print and ebook formats from various sources. Secure credit card purchasing.

About the author: Dorian Scott Cole is an independent, cross-disciplinary scholar with education and experience in psychology, philosophy, religion, language, visual semiotics, and technology. Other books and publications: How to Write a Screenplay, Writers Workshop Script Doctor,, and

Reading type: Mainstream Scholarly Specialist

Distribution notice:

You are welcome to make standard size quotations from this article with proper attribution (Dorian Scott Cole, One Spirit Resources Web site). This material is not public domain and may not be sold, mass distributed, published, or made electronically available in any form, without permission from Dorian Scott Cole


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Copyright © 2009 Dorian Scott Cole. Feedback and statistical corrections are welcome: Author, Webmaster, publisher.