Learn to say it: "I'm sorry."
What an unrelenting mess our culture is these days.
These days, everyone seems to be “shrill.” The word means “high-pitched or piercing,” but I mean it in the sense that from social media to academia, from bombastic sound bites to complaining first-world privelegers, there’s a lot of irritating yipping going on. We have owned two chihuahuas (you’d think we would have learned after the first one). Both were incessant yippers when someone knocked on our door. That’s like our culture these days. So much yipping… shrillness.
Everyone is yelling at something or someone. So very few people are listening. So very few are seeking to understand. We are a nation of knee-jerk responses. We seem eager to be offended. There is no toleration anywhere.
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What we need is one simple phrase of ownership that we used to be taught as kids. It’s easy to pronounce, but it seems impossible to profess.
To communicate “I’m sorry” with power, we must own it. This is not a wishy-washy absolution of responsibility. We’ve seen it in ourselves or our children. Big brother pushes down little brother. Parents intervene when little brother comes to “tell.” Big brother is called before the parental court. “Tell your little brother you’re sorry” is part of the verdict. We’ve all seen the sullen big brother mouth the words, “I’m sorry,” well aware by his defiant tone and smirk that his “sorry” is… well, sorry. He didn’t mean it.
To communicate “I’m sorry” with power, we must own it. This is not a track and field event where you pass the baton to the next runner, absolving yourself of how the race turns out. This happens often in marriages. Husband says something insensitive to wife. Wife responds with silent treatment, snark or subtle cues that husband has entered enemy territory. Husband slowly surrenders with a “sorry” that is like this: I’m sorry you feel that way…” There is no ownership of the offense there, and so no real apology has been given. Husband passes the baton of responsibility without acknowledging his own mistake. “I’m sorry YOU feel that way…” Husband has made it all about the other, blaming wife for her emotions.
To communicate “I’m sorry” with power, we must own it. The words are not meant to be a moral judgement on someone else’s worldview. This happens often in academia, media or politics. Professor tells student “I’m sorry you are on the wrong side of history.”
To communicate “I’m sorry” with power, we must own it.
An apology without contrition is meaningless and perpetuates the wound.
“A stiff apology is a second insult. The injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged he wants to be healed because he has been hurt.” ~G.K. Chesterton
Not only is our culture really bad at good apologies, there’s an outright poverty of apology. No one apologizes for anything.
And how deeply we all need it.
A righteous, contrite, sincere apology (and restitution if appropriate) is the way forward for future civility. Regular admissions and confessions of fault is the way forward to become neighbors again. To be able to speak to “the other side” again. To be able to like one another again. To be human. No relationship can long survive without apology.
There are so many reasons why we have a poverty of apology in our nation. Fear of being sued. Fear of being wrong. Fear of losing status. Fear of lack of credibility. Fear of losing a job/spouse/friend…
We don’t apologize because we are afraid.
What if you believed that apologizing was your way out of fear? Would it help you swallow your pride (fear is just perverted pride after all), and own up and say, “I’m sorry” with sincerity? What if you believed that apologizing would free you instead of bind you?
Imagine for a moment…
How would you feel if “that” person or “that” group” issued a formal, heartfelt, obviously sincere and contrite apology? Just think about it right now. And what if that person or group also took steps to demonstrate the sincerity of their sorry?
Woudn’t it de-fang and defuse your pent-up animosity, bitterness, hurt and sorrow?
Biblical Principles for apology
Jesus had nothing to apologize for - ever. Instead, He offered these words on making things right with another:
“So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.”
In other words, a lack of righteous apology can impact your ability to worship.
And here’s a word to those of us waiting on apologies:
“[Love] is not irritable, and does not keep a record of wrongs.”
In other words, we can’t let another’s lack of apology impact our own enjoyment of life. Don’t keep counting offenses. It will rob you of joy. Back in June 2022, I wrote:
In today’s shrill cancel culture, it seems that the main aim is just to win by humiliating another. To win by destroying someone else. In the recent Depp-Heard trial, we learned all kinds of unsavory information about their relationship and behavior, including that she defecated in his bed in retaliation.
Such atrocious behavior is a bit like what our culture is doing to us all. It’s defecating in our most sacred places. Rather than practicing humility, compassion and forgiveness, we all seem to quick to blame, cancel, and lambast.
If you’re struggling with the forgiveness side of things, you might want to read that article as well.
How do you get someone to apologize?
I wonder how many times that phrase has been searched on Google? When I searched, it produced 133 million results. Everyone wants to know, and there are tons of articles about it.
Here’s my suggestion though: you start the process.
Search your own mind and heart for something you may need to apologize for. Begin the process. Your apology may not be to the person you are waiting to hear one from. It may be someone completely different. But if you begin by becoming a person of sincere sorry, it will be contagious in your own circle and culture.
Let’s start with us.
More in the Series
Toleration was the left’s word for anything goes back in the 1990s. As it’s become clear that their version of “tolerate” now means demanding approval/acquiescence to what they believe/promote, they’ve had to create new concepts like “misinformation” or redefine old words/truths like “woman.”
1 Corinthians 13:5
A world of revenge, June 24, 2022
YES sincere apologies, heart felt truly repentant Im sorry's must start with us, . I love the Biblical principles you include in your articles,, there is no better foundation then the Word of God. Amen
yes amen,, Im sorry means nothing anymore in society, its just a clip phrase to get ourselves out of the dog house,, I find that a truly meant Im sorry followed by please forgive me for... helps to own the Im sorry, because then Im naming the sin Ive committed against someone else. Or I apologize for.... please forgive me..