It is a cause for news. Someone in the media says something patently offensive about a political opponent and then apologizes. Others make being offensive a badge of honor until they tweet an offensive naked picture of body parts to a stranger. Oops! Sorry! I won’t do that again (until I think no one is watching.) Once in awhile I see an apology in print that seems sincere. It’s hard to know for certain but it was certainly phrased well.
What is a “good” apology? What does it look like? Having had to apologize more times than I can remember over the years of life on this earth, I have made a hash of it far too often. It usually went something like this. “I am sorry that I did that or said that and caused you harm but you started it.” It could not have been the fault of noble me who is rarely at fault. It must have been your evil deed that triggered my much less evil response. Because, you see, I am basically a good person although we are all uncertain about you. This approach rarely repaired anything unless my friend decided to forgive me and move on. Thankfully that happened once in awhile.
The problem lies in pride. We are not humble enough to admit even possible fault. “I am sorry that you feel like I owe you an apology.” Admitting fault is losing points in the game of life. It diminishes me to have to admit to you (of all people) that I was ….wrong. My experience has taught me that to admit fault takes practice. It’s easier today because I have done it before (although I still HATE it.) Not to mention, it’s especially difficult when the other person is someone you just don’t like. Even worse is someone who thinks they are better than you. To apologize to them is galling. Pride is clearly the root of the issue. All of us are too proud.
The other issue is an unwillingness to sacrifice our selves. Ever apologized to someone when you thought for certain you were right and THEY were wrong? If not, I suggest you have never really apologized. To sacrifice one’s certitude in order to mend fences with a friend seems especially difficult for sinful humans. I can admit fault when I think I am at least partially to blame but DO NOT expect me to take even an atom of responsibility because YOU had your little feelings hurt. Your feelings matter far less than my self righteous integrity. (I shall now wave my hand and you may depart and go mope or whatever you little people do.) Since when do the feelings of others matter less than our own? This is fundamental selfishness, human nature on display. Me first. You? Behind me.
Apologies consist of two things. One is a specific accounting of the sinful deed. “I am sorry that I lost my temper and scared you half to death.” Not, “I am sorry if I offended you.” IF? There is no IF or else we would not be apologizing. When being specific keep in mind that a word that does not belong in the sentence is “but.” “I am sorry that I lost my temper and scared you half to death BUT you are an idiot and any sane person would be angry at you.” Doesn’t work. I’ve tried it. An apology is not accompanied by an excuse. You may have an excuse and it may seem good to you but leave it at home for now. Let us swallow our pride.
Secondly, an apology contains the promise to never do the same thing again if at all possible. Admittedly we are sinners and we fail often (ok, daily) but our hearts desire should be to lance this behavior from our lives (if only to avoid having to apologize again.) Besides, to continue doing the same thing over and over again certainly undercuts the perceived sincerity of our numerous apologies. Words mean nothing if actions do not change. A time will come when the words are no longer believed. Sometimes we are forced to set up boundaries to protect ourselves from people who walk all over our feelings and don’t seem to care. But that is another subject.
Philippians 23 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; (NASB)