After the offense. After the confrontation over it, and after the apology. Is there a way back?
The aftermath of offense won't be the same as the time before it happened, How could it - nothing in this world is ever as it was before. History only moves forward -- other, more graceful things are true in the also-life of God, where past, present and future are all happening at once, but here where we are bounded by time and space we can never go home again, not exactly. And so the time after hearts collide so painfully will be different from the time before.
It will not, for instance, be innocent. How could it? The future is marked by the past. It may forgive, but it will not forget the offense. "Forgive and forget" might work on a greeting card, but nowhere else.
It will be wiser. The pain of estrangement is memorable. We don't want to feel it again. In order not to, we'd best learn from bitter experience. Much -- most? -- of the world's pain comes from refusing this learning. And it is not just about the interpersonal exchange we will learn -- we will also see new things about ourselves. Now I see who I am in the cold light of another's fury, and if I have the courage, I will not look away. How much of what she sees in me is just her own anger, and how much is true? Is there an aspect of myself of which I have been unaware? There always is -- human beings are like onions, peeling away layer after layer of the selves we have constructed, one layer yielding always to the next, there for the peeling.
And what will the future look like? Will we ever be friends again? Will he ever come back? Will she ever call me again? Is our love a great enough thing to lose that we both will do what we must to find it and bring it back home? Or am I permanently crossed off her list? It's much simpler that way -- the offender just ceases to exist. We do not speak. Letters are returned unopened. And silent years go by.
Oh, let it not be so! Let there be sense enough to return, scarred though we may be by all that has happened. Let us build after we have destroyed.
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in...
--- Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, 1865.