What if we said “I’m sorry”?

Apologizing is hard. I get that. I don’t particularly like having to apologize…

But what if we looked at apologizing as a spiritual practice? .

I think our pride gets in the way a lot of the time. We don’t like having to admit that we might have been wrong about something, especially if that “something” involves our belief systems.

But if someone has ever apologized to you and said “I’m sorry,” how did that make you feel? If you’re like me, it opened doors for reconciliation. It made me feel that they valued our relationship enough to do something that they found difficult. It took away a perception of arrogance.

So what if we–both personally and as churches–were more willing to say “I’m sorry”?

Does that have to mean saying that we were wrong about something? Sometimes. And sometimes that’s a difficult pill to swallow–but a necessary one. If we look back at our history (again, both individually and as churches and countries), there are a lot of times we have been wrong about something. When we’ve acknowledged that, we’ve been able to reconcile…to work on bringing wholeness and healing.

However, when we have stubbornly stood our ground, refusing to admit that something we might have done, said, or believed was wrong, we remain stuck in the past. There’s no opportunity for change.

So here’s a challenge for 2019…let’s put our egos to one side and view our relationships as more important than our egos. Let’s be willing to let go of those beliefs and actions from the past that we’ve hung onto, even though they continue to hurt others, and say “I’m sorry” so we can work on bringing wholeness and healing to a broken world.

I am Sorry Messages

4 thoughts on “What if we said “I’m sorry”?

  1. I value a model that suggests when one person’s behavior does not match the other person’s expectation, then you have four options in an ongoing relationship. Adjust the behavior so it matches the expectation, adjust the expectation to match the behavior, adjust the behavior and expectation both to a middle ground, or keep encountering the mis-match painfully over and over again.

    The trouble with an apology is it only matters if it adjusts expectations and/or behavior. If not, you’ll hit the same mis-match again, and again, and the apology will matter less each time as it represents wanting to end bad feelings without changing whatever caused the bad feelings in the first place. Conflicts are seldom one-off, a clash with an outcome. They are usually symptoms of relational disconnects.

    An apology that’s not connected to a change is patronizing or disingenuous. Apologizing explicitly to put a conflict in the past is just re-loading the disconnect to trigger again in the future.Saying “I was wrong” just feels insulting if you plan to continue being wrong and apologizing to minimize the conflict when it recurs.

    For what it’s worth, I think your model is good but backwards. FIRST, open the door to reconciliation by changing your behavior or expectations. THEN apologize, and the apology feels a lot more sincere.I think sometimes we must earn the right to ask someone to accept an apology, and offering one to make ourselves more comfortable or to signal virtue is too easy.

    • You make some good points–thanks for sharing them.

      I agree that apologizing without changing behaviors doesn’t do anything except set up for continued problems.

      Actually, the post was triggered by a couple of articles suggesting that “the church” needs to say “I’m sorry” for the ways people have been hurt. The article DID make the point that the apology needs to be accompanied by corrective actions, so I’m glad you pointed that out.

      • I thought that might be the context. I’ve been present for church apologies. A sweaty leader says some nice things about how we realize we behaved poorly in the past. And we all walk together into the future. But there’s no budget change, no staffing change, no concrete way forward. Nice words, perhaps some symbolic act; noted, prepared as a defense the next time the unhappy group makes some noise.

        “How many times do we have to apologize?” Well… until it results in a changed relationship. If we don’t know what a changed relationship needs to look like, then the way I see it, we’re not ready to apologize.

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