Back in 1976 Elton John released a song that is still a big hit today. Called “Sorry seems to be the Hardest Word”. I want to think about that for a moment, because it’s true. In our relationships with others, saying your sorry is not easy. Not sure why, but we find it difficult to express our apology, especially with those who are closest to us. We all make mistakes. Nobody is perfect. So why is apologizing so darn difficult to do?
Think of the difference between “I’m sorry” and “I didn’t mean to.” Or, “Let’s just forget it.” Perhaps our children can teach us something here. An argument. A push and a shove. Yelling at the little brother, “Stupid.” “I’m sorry.” This means something different from, “I didn’t mean to” or “Let’s forget it.”. So there are many different situations we can find ourselves in, and the problem is it can get out of control. And then we have a problem. Feelings are hurt. Life is more complicated as we grow older. We sometimes say “I’m sorry” but it isn’t quite clear what we mean. At other times we say “I’m sorry” because we know somehow we are tied to the harm, the suffering of others.
Sometimes, we will do things in life, that will cause a lot of stress and anxiety in others that we never intended. The reason being, we will do things and not explain to others why it is we have done them. We leave ourselves open to the misunderstandings of others. It’s like the board game “Sorry “, players try to travel around the board with their pieces faster than any other player. The game title comes from the many ways in which a player can negate the progress of another, while issuing an apologetic “Sorry!” The objective is to be the first player to get all your colour pawns in the Home space or finish line. The pawns are normally moved in a clockwise direction, but can be moved backward if directed. Movement of the pawns is directed by the drawing of a card.” It is a fun game because you win by advancing and by sending your opponents all the way back to the starting point.
Although Sorry is a board game, things can get so intense during the game that it can very easily turn into a contact sport. Because if you want to win, you need not be afraid of winning by hurting the other players. Some people don’t like losing. But that’s how you win. You win by being heartless. The only time the word “sorry” is said it is with a sarcastic tone because the reality is that you don’t mean it. You say sorry that you bumped them from their advanced position on the board all the way to the beginning but you will do it again in order to advance and eventually win. You say sorry but you really don’t mean it. That’s not a good definition of saying or being sorry. The whole point of the board game, “Sorry”, is to get ahead at the expense of others.
But how different it is to hear what Jesus said – “this is my commandment that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12. These words appear 13 times in the New Testament, and are a vital part of the teachings of Jesus. He urges Christians to make Him the basis of their life, and to consider others more important than themselves. And if we have to apologise for something, so be it. Express your regret, and say “I’m sorry”. It certainly doesn’t make you any less of a person, it also means being prepared to forgive.
Apology is the pathway to restored, loving relationships. And it begins by learning how to say, “I’m sorry.”
The need for apologies is present in all human relationships. Marriage, bringing up a family, work, Drs. Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas have done extensive research into the field of apology and have compiled their research into a book called Languages of Apology. The say that, in apology we express regret. This is what happens when we say “I’m sorry.” It is an admission of our own sense of guilt, shame and pain that we have hurt the other person. And in truth, a simple “I’m sorry” can go a long way towards restoration of the relationship. In contrast, the absence of the words “I’m sorry” stands out to some like a sore thumb.
When we apologize we can accept responsibility for our actions. This is the part of our apology where we admit “I was wrong.” That can be a hard thing to do. We don’t usually like to admit that we were wrong. Instead, we tend to blame others or circumstances for our actions. But for many people hearing someone say “I was wrong” is what communicates to them that the person offering the apology is sincere. But it is not easy to say “I was wrong.” Most of us would rather do anything than to admit we were wrong.
Do you remember how much trouble Fonzie had with this issue on the TV series Happy Days? Fonzie was too cool to ever admit he was wrong. Richie Cunningham would say to him, “Go ahead, admit it, you were wrong.” So Fonzie would go, “I was wr-r-r-r-r-r-r-.” And he couldn’t get the word out. So he would end up saying, “I was wr-r-r-r-r-Not right!”
But “not right” is not the same thing as “wrong.” If you’re wrong, you’re wrong. But if you are “not right,” nobody really knows what you are. Be big enough to say “I was wrong” and mean it.
And what about making restitution. That’s a really hard one! When we desire to make restitution we will say something like “What can I do to make this up to you?” When an issue has bruised or broken a relationship the usually unspoken question is “Do you still care about me? Is our relationship important to you?” Being willing to make it up to the other person is often the evidence that you want the relationship to be healed.
It’s a sincere person who says – “I will try not to do that again.” Of course genuine repentance is more than words. To really change we will formulate a plan for change and then seek to implement that plan. Many times the one we are apologizing to wants one thing: to see that we are attempting to change. It has to be more than words. Put it into action.
When we have hurt someone, it’s important to try and make it right. God can help you. Ask for His strength and guidance. You’ll never regret taking that step forward in reconciliation.
A genuine apology always has 3 parts – “I’m sorry”, “It’s my fault” and “What can I do to make it right?”.