Me – “No, say you’re sorry like you mean it!”
Me “Well if you two don’t make up, I’m going to make you sit on the couch and hold hands until you forgive each other.”
— Word to the wise N-E-V-E-R do that if you have boys. I won’t go into details, let us just say, it wasn’t pretty.
Teaching my boys how to apologize and how to forgive is no easy feat. And to make matter worse they have a neurotic mother who tends to apologize for everything.
Are you having a bad day? – I’m sorry.
Did I forget to call? – I’m sorry.
Is it raining? – I’m sorry.
Do I think you are mad at me? — oh dear God, I’m-sincerely-horribly-sorry-and-I-hope-you-will-forgive-me-because-I’ve-obviously-done something-horribly-terribly-wrong-or-there-wouldn’t-be-this-tension-between-us! (DEEP BREATH) tell-me-you-forgive-me-before-I-hyperventilate-and pass-out!
I’m am a recovering apology queen. If I think for a minute that I have done something wrong, I will immediately apologize and ask for forgiveness, even for something that is the other person’s issue, just so that I do not have to suffer the uncomfortable consequences of relational tension.
There is a world of difference between “I’m sorry.” and “I was wrong.”
I was wrong to call another blogger friend an “overstuffed pig” last year. I did feel badly about that once I thought about it and had to make amends – repent, apologize, and seek forgiveness. My actions were out of line and had a negative impact on another human being. My hostility was undeserved. I began by telling him I was wrong. Why I thought I was wrong and wanted to make it right. I’d sinned, that was an appropriate action step for sin.
I was sorry that I thought I’d offended a pastor on his blog a year or so ago — sorry because I didn’t want any ill will between us, I liked him and I wanted him to like me. Just because I felt uncomfortable, doesn’t mean I did anything wrong. It’s taken me a long time to learn I don’t need to repent of having a different opinion than someone else. And if someone chooses to take offense at my different opinion that does not mean I have sinned. That’s a tough one for me. I did apologize for giving voice to my opinions and for possibly offending him and his response fascinated me –
“No sin committed, therefore no forgiveness needed nor offered.”
You’d think I’d be relieved – but what I felt was panic. I didn’t understand the grace and wisdom behind those words for a very long time. I was so freaked out by his response that it took me over a year to work up the nerve to talk to him again. True story.
In time I understood that he was right. I hadn’t done anything wrong. I wasn’t repenting for sin, I was lamenting over potential loss of good will and tried to patch it up before the boat sank. I was simply afraid. He saw through that fear and offered truth and grace. Through that example, I’ve learned how to help my own boys discern sorry from wrong and forgiveness from peace treaties.
A very good example of personal accountability, integrity, and honesty can be seen in Tiger Wood’s public apology that aired last Friday. If you haven’t seen it you can see it here: Tiger’s very public apology
I’ve already seen the comments and posts about how “it was scripted.”, “It’s just a PR.”, “He’s a buddhist? He needs Jesus and then we’ll talk” Faith issues aside, I am quite honestly, impressed by his statement. I’m also just as impressed with what he didn’t say, as I am what he did say.
He could have blamed others: “I had an unhappy childhood.” He could have made jokes or blamed his wife for not understanding him. Or he could have blamed the other women — “They came on to me.”
But he didn’t.
He could have also said “I’m sorry and I won’t do it again” and expected his responsibility to end right there.
Instead he did more than that.
Think what you may of him, his actions, his confession, or his faith, his confession does contain four very important elements.
- He named the sin – “I had affairs. I cheated. What I did was unacceptable.”
- He took personal responsibility: “I was wrong. I brought this on myself. I recognize I have brought this on myself. And I know above all I am the one who needs to change.”
- He acknowledged the impact his choices and actions had on others: “I hurt my wife, my kids, my mother, my wife’s family, my friends, my foundation, and kids all around the world who admired me.”
- He acknowledges active repentance: “My real apology to her (Elin) will not come in the form of words. It will come from my behavior over time.” And he named some of those behavioral changes that will enable him to take right action.
What I like is that Tiger seems to understand that this apology doesn’t automatically make everything okay now. He acknowledges, and owns his part and his part alone. Are there two sides or more to this story? Sure, there probably is, but he doesn’t need to be concerned with any sidewalk except his own. Tiger seems to understand this is about a life time of change that he, and his family, has to look forward to.
I have too much debris on my own sidewalk to stand as judge and jury over Tiger’s apology. It’s not my place to decide whether or not he is sincere or even whether or not I’m going to forgive him. God alone knows the heart of a man (or woman) and He calls us to forgive as we have been forgiven.
Repentance doesn’t end with I was wrong or I’m sorry, it begins there. I wish him well on his journey.
Check back tomorrow while I write about my journey back through the pages of liturgical worship, Lent, and finding Christ in the seasons.
This post written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart. All rights reserved.