“A stiff apology is a second insult. The injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged: he wants to be healed because he has been hurt.” ” – G.K. Chesterton.
In the sitcom of the late ’70s and ’80s called Happy Days, there was a character that was the essence of cool. He established hair combing and leather jackets as standards in the culture—he was the Fonze. When the Fonze pounded on a jukebox or snapped his fingers, his actions were cool because the Fonze was cool. Nobody could beat the Fonz in a fight and he never had a hair out of place. But there was one thing the Fonz could not do. He could not apologize. Every once in a while, Fonzie would mess up, and while he knew that he should, he couldn’t bring himself to make an apology.
Many people have complicated feelings about apologies, and not all of our thoughts and feelings about apologies line up. Some people feel shamed by apologizing while others feel ashamed until we have done so.
“I am sorry.” No matter how difficult it may seem to say these words, they are among the most important words in our lives. And once we say them, there’s a sense of freedom and relief. Instead of making us look weak, these words bring us closer to each other. To say “I’m sorry” does not cause us to lose others’ respect. In fact, the opposite is true. Learning to use these powerful words takes us a long way toward healing in our relationships. A good apology demonstrates awareness and an acknowledgment of the pain we caused others. It shows true remorse and takes full responsibility for one’s actions. And it seeks to make amends while committing to change.
But too often we don’t do it or we don’t say it very well. We become defensive. Or we offer apologies that don’t seem to be given in good faith. If we are honest, we would have to admit that we have all given them. “ Sorry…I didn’t realize you were so sensitive.” Or “I’m sorry you can’t take a joke.” Such apologies will do little to heal any hurt or make amends for the hurt we may have caused.
Too often people come to us to apologize or we go to them to apologize even though we are not going to change. It is hard to forgive someone if they are going to make that same mistake next week or next month. The whole I’m sorry, I won’t do it again, I’m sorry I did it again routine gets old and frustrating real quick. It gets to the point where you don’t take the apology very seriously which is why it is difficult to comprehend how God does it.
It would be hard to calculate how many times the average Christian has said “I am sorry” to God. Or how many times we were sorry, again. And again. Or for that matter, how many times we were sorry and this was the absolute last time we will have to say we are sorry. God forgives us knowing we will sin again. And His “know” isn’t a prediction like ours, He really knows. Yet, He forgives. And forgives. It is truly amazing.
As difficult as apologizing sometimes is, it helps us grow to be more like Jesus by humbling us and teaching us about grace.
- Why is it so difficult to apologize?
- Read Matthew 5:23-24. What does Jesus say about asking for forgiveness? What makes this difficult?