The word that ‘The Fonz’, in the TV series ‘Happy Days’, could never bring himself to say without squirming and feeling forced to squeeze it out like dregs at the end of a toothpaste tube, was “SORRRRRRY”. Maybe you can say sorry easily, but genuine, humble, pure unadulterated apologies are rare. It’s not just politicians who find it hard to swallow ‘humble pie’ and simply say, “I’m (really) sorry!” Many of us struggle to lose face and readily own up to our mistakes and the harm we cause without attempts at self-justification. I’ve numerous memories of having to say “Sorry” to our kids as they grew up and we got it wrong in our parenting and sometimes stepped over the line to get our own way.
Other side of the equation is forgiveness and the ability to forgive. Fortunately, my own children were (are) very forgiving. But without genuine apologies and forgiveness community life will always be hindered and splintered. It breaks my heart how many families, churches and communities are unable to practise the Lord’s Prayer line, “Forgive us our sins (debts / trespasses) as we forgive those who sin against us.” The result is members who won’t talk to each other and ‘fault-line’ fallouts which divide and contaminate generation after generation for decades, even millennia.
This is the opposite of Jesus’ mission, to: unite us with our heavenly parent, God, with our own soul, and with one another, as brothers and sisters ‘in Christ’. Christ’s prayer in the face of our murderous humanity crucifying him, was to pray, “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.”
In a family book ‘Jesus Emotions – A creative journal for families’ Sara Hargreaves gives 8 helpful tips on how to apologise:
- Never use the word ‘but’ in your apology.
- Talk about what you have done, not the other person.
- Offer to replace or repay anything lost if that’s possible.
- One sincere apology is enough.
- Don’t talk about who started it.
- An apology is only worth something if you try your hardest not to offend again.
- Don’t demand that the other person does anything, not even forgive.
- A sincere apology should never make the other person feel worse.
Wow, thanks Sara!
Prayer: Dear God, I’m sorry for my pride that tries to salvage reputation rather than own up to my wrongdoing and mistakes. I’m sorry for my denials that kid myself into believing I’ve done nothing wrong, and for the time it can take to admit I messed up. I’m sorry for offenses which grow bigger due to leaving it far too long before apologising. Thank You for your extortionate and extravagant free forgiveness which cost the life and death of Your Son Jesus. Give me the courage and esteem to say “Sorry!” without hesitation and the grace to forgive those who harm me. As far as it depends on myself, help me to live at peace with other people. Amen.