I glance up from the busy road as motorbikes weave in front of me. The sign overhead makes me laugh.
“Please forgive me for my insides and outsides.”
It’s a special Ramadan advertisement for cigarettes. Apparently, the cigarettes are apologizing. As they should.
The phrase about forgiving is a common one just following the Muslim month of fasting. Visitors recite the sentence upon entering the homes of friends and family to feast on cookies and rice wrapped in banana leaves. The idea is that this is a time to ask for forgiveness for our thoughts and deeds.
I drive, wondering what it would be like for me to periodically ask for forgiveness from my friends and family. For both the stuff I did and the stuff I thought.
It would take a while to remember everything. I may not even have time to think about much else. Certainly no time to think about my own feelings being hurt, or my own sacrifices for my family, or the times others offend me.
The other billboards rush by as I drive. There’s another cigarette one—saying that his grass is greener than his neighbors. Clearly taken from the “grass is always greener” saying. Ouch. Yes, I must add “envy” to my list of inside wrongs that need forgiveness.
Then there’s the one advertising free text messages for choosing a particular cell phone service. Ah, yes, I’ve been guilty of the “texting while I’m supposed to be listening” mistake.
A driver cuts in front of me and my angry words slip out. Oops. Yes, impatience is another one—whether in the car or in the store or in my home.
The outer sins seem easier to admit for this good girl who doesn’t like to offend others. But those inner ones—the ones where I’ve allowed the worst of me to tarnish the best of others—those are the ones that would take some courage to admit.
And what if they said, “No, no forgiveness for you.” What if they prefer to hang onto the hurts, preferring to believe in managed pain instead of true healing? Like I’ve done in my heart to others?
But then I suppose if toxic cigarettes can do it—this willingness to admit wrong and seek forgiveness, in big bold letters—then maybe I can do it, too.