I had a discussion with my mother-in-law a while ago about atonement. On the face of it, atonement is “the action of making amends for a wrong or injury.” Many of us spend a lot of time trying to “mend fences” with our friends and loved ones.
There are two types of wrong or injury involved here. The first are the wrongs we perceive we have done to others. Here are some questions to ask yourself before we beat ourselves up too much with these. Did you do your best in the original situation? Were your intentions good and honourable? If so, and it still went wrong, then apologise. If not, then try to make amends starting with an apology, and try to fix what went wrong. Face it, people get things wrong.
The second type, are those things which the other party perceives that you did as hurtful. Again if your intention was good, and you did you best, tell them so. It is up to them to make peace with the situation in their own minds. You cannot let yourself become a slave to their lack of forgiveness.
Some things cannot be made right, however. Sometimes the hurts not only tear down the fences, but burn the bridges as well (mixing my metaphors). If you have apologied, tried to make amends, and are still rebuffed, it may hurt, but constantly belittling yourself over it will not make it any better for anyone.
Biblically sin is one of those bridge burners. We separate ourselves from God and others by our actions. Fortunately, God is bigger than many of our relations who hold grudges. For God so loved the world, that He sent His Son. Here is a third kind of atonement, where the “wronged” party reaches out to make the atonement.
This is an ultimate example for us. We too can make amends, not when we have wronged, but when we have been wronged. In so doing we will live in a world of sturdy fences, and glistening bridges.