I heard of a woman who received a nice settlement from a lawsuit. Afterward, she was still furious. Her lawyer asked, “What’s wrong? What you got was more than fair.”
“What I wanted,” she said, “was for somebody to look me in the eye and say, ‘I’m sorry this happened.’”
We all know this. But saying sorry is hard, isn’t it?
In a book called Being Wrong, author Kathryn Schulz writes: “As a culture, we haven’t mastered the basic skill of saying ‘I was wrong.’”
Think about that. We fly robots to Mars. We cure disease. We’re the most advanced people in the history of humanity.
But we can’t say sorry.
Why? Maybe it’s because our culture is upside down on the issue. There’s a famous line from the movie, Love Story – remember it? “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
Love means having to say you’re sorry all the time. Preferably every fifteen minutes.
There’s a thousand answers that could be given for why we don’t do it, so let me focus on one: pride.
Pride trivializes God’s mercy in our lives.Pride makes it hard to appreciate what God has done.
We’re like the young rich man who can’t follow Jesus because his heart is consumed by wealth. He’s spiritually blind to his need for Christ. Why follow Jesus when you already have what you need?
Dorothy Day said the closer she grew to God the more she could acknowledge her sinfulness because she saw that God never abandoned her to sin but repeatedly extended his mercy.
That’s the secret. Drawing closer to God allows us to see ourselves for who we are: fragile creatures in need of grace.
It’s tough to say sorry when we’re doing life on our own. Easier when resting in God’s mercy.
It comes down to pride. We don’t apologize because we see it as weakness. But it’s not.
A recent study on leadership found that admitting fault and apologizing creates solidarity, innovation, and openness to change.
So, saying sorry literally makes us more creative and successful. Sorry isn’t weakness; it’s power.
When we need to say sorry, who keeps us from doing it? Nobody.
We hold all the power. And that’s the problem, because our tendency is to address our weaknesses and struggle with them. But there is often little moral effort where we are strong.
But in scripture sin resides not so much in our weaknesses but in our strengths. Because God doesn’t kick us when we’re down. He lifts us up.
Think about Jesus with the adulteress, refusing to condemn her, daring others to throw the first stone. He whispers something hidden in her ear, then says, “Go and sin no more.”
Scripture is filled with a God who grieves with us in our weakness and offers grace to help us overcome.
It’s when we sin in our strength that God drops the metaphorical hammer. When we simply don’t bother to do what we can.
The rich man could have followed Jesus and given his money to the poor, but he doesn’t. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite could have cared for the wounded man, but they don’t. In the last judgment scene of Matthew’s gospel, those who are condemned are told their fault lies in their unwillingness to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, and clothe the naked.
The story of sin, like the call to repentance, concerns those areas of our lives where we could have tried harder, precisely because we were able to do so. Christ judges not the weak heart that struggles, but rather the strong heart that does not bother.
We hold enormous power over one another. We can withhold an apology and wreak havoc. Or, we can trust God’s mercy, lay down our pride, and offer this little word of healing.
The choice is ours.