Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word
Saying, "I'm sorry" doesn't come naturally to a lot of people. For some, it's viewed as a sign of weakness putting them in a vulnerable position. Yet apologizing is anything but weak. It is actually a sign of great strength. Imagine the risk of acknowledging that we have done something wrong without knowing how the other person may react? They could easily reject us and not accept our admission of guilt. Or they could attempt to inflict guilt or shame on us for our incompetency. Some may choose to manipulate us by conveniently referring to the transgression when seeking to obtain something.
Yet in reality, apologizing is first-and-for-most a sign of intelligence. I as wise enough to recognize that what I said/did was insensitive, rude, mean-spirited, and such. Secondly, it takes great courage to openly admit our wrongdoing, for the reasons stated above. Third, it shows sensitivity and compassion. I am aware of how damaging or hurtful my actions have been to the other person and on some level I want to alleviate their pain. And lastly, it shows concern for their well-being. In my sincere desire to right a wrong, I am motivated to do so out of love (concern) for the one I wounded.
Yet sometimes, even when we feel compelled to ask for forgiveness, we try to justify our actions thereby alleviating us from following through. "He got what he deserved!" "If she hadn't criticized me I never would have cursed at her." Yet in God's eyes, there is never justification for hurting any of His children.
Remember when you were a child and you and your younger brother got into a fight? Mom came along and made you both say you were sorry. At the risk of a more severe punishment, you complied with her demands. With a look of disdain and refusal to make eye contact, you begrudgingly mumbled under your breath, "Sorry," then quickly made your get-away before being told you had to kiss and make up.
The key to a successful expression of remorse is sincerity and personal responsibility. It must come from a place of genuine concern so that the other party understands your intent. Secondly, an apology filled with excuses and blame (examples above) are lame and disingenuous. Many years ago, I went through a long and painful estrangement from three of my adult children. I was not always the best mother when I was raising them and they had just cause to be angry with me. This separation, however, was due in part to some fabricated lies concocted by a vindictive and jealous person. Every attempt I made to reconcile went unacknowledged by my children. They were not interested in hearing my explanations, excuses, or truths about who was/wasn't responsible for what. Five and a half painful years passed before I finally realized that what I owed my children was a pure and sincere apology for the times I failed them. This is the letter that finally reconciled us:
"Dear _____, For anything I have ever said or done that has hurt or offended you, please know that I am truly sorry. That was never my intention. In whatever ways I failed you as a mother, please accept my apology. I know I let you down. If I ever did anything that made you feel unloved or unwanted, I can't even begin to tell you how saddened I am by that. I wish I had known because I have never loved anyone as deeply as I have loved you. Love, Mom."
Don't hesitate to offer an apology. It is the first step to emotional healing and a possible reconciliation of the relationship. "It matters not who caused the problem. It only matters who initiates the healing."*
*The Great Truth
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