07 September 2007

Saying "sorry" like we mean it

I had a conversation with Sublime Aunt this morning in which we discussed an apology she had recently received from an offender. The apology was one of those, "I'm- sorry- if- I've- done- anything- to- offend- you" sort of apologies. The apology that was actually called for in the situation would have been an "I'm- sorry- that- I- was- a- complete- and- total- disrespectful- idiot- and- allowed- my- offspring- to- be- the- same. - Period" sort of apologies. But that's not what she got.
Recently, on several blogs, I have seen Christians behaving badly and making assumptions and declarations about other commenters. When their behavior is pointed out to them, they have given explanations rather than apologies. And it happens in the church all the time!
I feel so bothered and annoyed when I see this sort of thing. Explanations and excuses are not apologies, nor is an apology pretending that the other party is responsible. I know that saying, "I'm sorry. I was wrong," and then ceasing to say anything else is a very difficult thing for humans, but it is absolutely essential. I've been on both the giving and receiving end of a half-apology. Neither spots are fun and the wrong's hurt still remains.
So. Friends, bloggers, idiots-who-live-near-my-aunt, etc... let's just say we're "sorry." Ok? Like we mean it this time.


Geoffrey said...

I am sorry if I said something that you choose to take the wrong way.

April said...

Yeah, you're lucky you're related to me now. Otherwise -- no forgiveness. NONE.

Makeesha said...

but that's the point isn't it, we offer those sorts of "apologies" when we don't actually mean it, when we don't think we've done anything wrong and so we're sorry for the other person that they're offended or whatever, but we hold them responsible for taking it the wrong way or being too sensitive. I imagine we've all done it to some degree or another...and it's a human thing, not just a church thing. of course it's not right but I'm not sure I want an apology from someone who doesn't think they owe me one.

April said...

I don't know, Mak. I think some folks offer explanations and excuses as a matter of routine when trying to make sincere apologies. I know I have. I've finally learned to stop after the "I'm sorry."

I agree that the "I'm sorry if..." is a way we get out of fully apologizing. And you're right -- it is a human thing. It may be instinctive, but we can all do better than that, especially Christians.

I'm also not sure about hearing an apology from someone who doesn't think they owe one. Generally if someone is humble enough to say that they are sorry that they hurt you, they are sincere in at least being sorry for the hurt, even if they don't understand the cause. One of the best things I've learned as a pastor is the power of those three words. I am sorry. All conditions aside, there is a lot of healing that is contained therein.

Makeesha said...

I think we're talking 2 sides of the same coin :)

April said...

Probably. I tend to do that a lot!:)

musicmommy3 said...

I think a lot of times I tend to want to explain where I was coming from (especially with my husband). Then I feel that the person can understand the situation better.

My husband is the type to want the apology that consists of what you're saying "I am sorry." period.
I don't know how I feel. I agree with you on one hand. (The hand that takes responsibility for it's actions.- I think that's very important.) On the other hand, I generally don't mind people explaining themselves because then I know where they were coming from. UNLESS the apoplogy goes something like this, "I am sorry BUT..." The but can erase the whole responsibility part. It doesn't bother me however to hear, "I am sorry. The reason I was rude was that I was having a very bad day but I shouldn't have taken it out on you."

Anyway, sorry for that long explaination. I support your topic. I think ALL of us need to practice that "Three word apology more." but do you understand where I'm coming from? Does what I'm saying make sense? My brain is fried so it might just have come across as mindless babble. LOL
Have a great weekend.
-Angela :)

marlo said...

hi apey. have a great weekend. love you!

jill said...

Isn't it difficult when, as pastors (or leaders, or anyone, really), the issue being raised truly is kind of ridiculous? In those cases, I am so tempted (more here than anywhere else) to make the "I'm sorry if you..." kind of apology. Totally passive-aggressive. Like, "I'll say what it is you want to hear if it will just shut you up...or shut you down..."

But I lived in a relationship for too many years before divorce in which the only apology I ever received was that insincere, blaming kind...and that wears a person down.

I try and try and try to practice simplicity here and simply say, "I am sorry," and leave it. I've found (and this is not very big of me) that even giving that apology when I think that a person is raising a non-issue for which I should absolutely not be apologizing is satisfying, but does not prevent me from walking away thinking very grumbly things in my head. I know, I know--Jesus would spit. But I'm awfully human.

In the best cases, simply saying, "I am sorry." PERIOD. Can be awfully healing, if we can get past the words lodged in our throats--words of explanation, blame, whatever.

This was an excellent post, April. Thanks for the thoughts!

April said...

Hi, Maria! Love you, too! :)

Angela... I completely understand. I think you are right. There are certain situations where an explanation is necessary, or courteous. I think sometimes, though, we explain as a way to excuse and let ourselves off the hook a little. I do that all the time. I guess the thing about explaining is that it shouldn't excuse behavior. We should take responsibility for the wrong we committed, like in your example there.

Jill... Oh, I SOOOOOOOO completely understand. This might be slightly off-topic, but I've apologized to people knowing full-well that there is something that they should be saying also and it hasn't been offered so I've fumed and stewed. Although what follows is not a particularly charitable way of thinking, I've realized that once an apology is offered, the onus is on the other individual to forgive. For example, I have apologized in worship to the entire church for a BIG mistake that I made regarding the old Sunday School program. Now if it gets brought up, as it was wont to be quite regularly in the past, I get to say, "You know, I have no excuses. I've apologized for that mistake." I like the clean-slate (or mostly-clean-slate) that a true and complete apology offers. I need those sort of things in my pastoral arsenal, because unfortunately, I am the queen of mistakes. Really.