Many people may remember the line from the movie “Love Story” that says, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” As warm and fuzzy as that sentiment may be, I’ve come to learn, through faith, that it simply isn’t true. Cowardice and smugness mean never having to say you’re sorry. Pride means never having to say you’re sorry. Self-righteousness means never having to say you’re sorry. But love--true Godly love--repents of wrongs and apologizes to God and to whomever has been wronged.
Before I was saved and born again through Christ, I could act rudely or knowingly hurt someone’s feelings and then go on my merry way. No matter how inappropriate my actions, in my mind they were justifiable. I, alone, was accountable to me, which meant I could just let myself off the hook. I was judge and jury of my own attitudes and actions. And let me tell you, when self is the arbiter of integrity and justice, look out. Both become arbitrary, based on the current level of maturity, emotion and circumstance. I operated under the self-deluded impression that I was a person of integrity when I wasn’t, and that I didn’t owe anybody an apology when, in actuality, I did!
Apologizing is one of the great challenges of the Christian faith; at least it is for me. I’m only just beginning to live out the biblical precept of owning up to my mistakes. One reason I find making amends difficult may be because I never had it modeled. I grew up in a family and with friends that didn’t apologize. Silent treatments and talking about people behind their back followed every conflict and altercation. With time, relationships would eventually morph back together, until the next dispute, wherein the cycle would repeat. The words “I’m sorry” never crossed my, or anyone else’s, lips.
I credit my husband with being my mentor in how to say “I’m sorry.” He’s the only person I know who will be the first to freely and quickly make an apology, even if he didn’t start the conflict and even if he’s not at fault. That’s humility--something I didn’t have that God is now cultivating and that is helping me to learn to say “I’m sorry.”
Micah 6:8 says, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” How does an attitude of not ever being sorry fit into this verse? It doesn’t. Comparing my attitude and actions against Scripture is always the ticket to changed behavior. My faith, more and more, is such that when I sin against God and another person, I can no longer just sweep it under the rug. Instead, I feel deeply grieved for God and the poor representation I am of Him. That old selfish urge to not apologize is now being overtaken by a deep need to right my wrong: for God first, and then the other person, and then myself.
And that’s what God requires of us: justice (being accountable for wrongs) mercy (towards others who took the brunt of our insensitivity) and walking humbly with God (repenting and then going forward in the full knowledge of what it took for God to forgive us in His Son, Jesus Christ). Walking humbly may also keep our apologies to a minimum because we’re living God-honoring and other-centered lives that are bereft of behavior that would require an apology!
And for those times we slip up, as we most inevitably will this side of heaven, the truest way to love God, others and ourselves is to say, “I’m sorry.”
“As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." Ephesians 4:1