Sorry, it’s been a while but I’ve had epic computer issues.
….See what I did there? You know straight away that that’s not really an apology right?
You see in the meantime, I’ve been pondering the word: “sorry.” I wonder if I might have discovered the most powerful word that a leader or anyone with influence can say to anyone under their care. The word is of course:……
That’s it, Sorry.
And that of course really is it, because we all know that the moment it is followed by one single word of justification it actually and immediately turns from being a word of healing to a words of absolute poison in a relationship. This is because now, on top of the original grievance, we’ve also just been lied to.
You know what I’m talking about, remember the last time someone said “Sorry….but I was really busy.” Or “Sorry…you feel that way.” Or “Sorry, I‘m struggling with some of my own issues right now.” Or even, “yep, I’ll apologise for that but not for this over here.”
Remember the anger, the frustration and the hurt?
We’ve all been there, expected to swallow a non-apology as a genuine apology.
I wish I hadn’t, but I’ve expected others to swallow my fake apologies at times.
It’s of course ten times worse when your in a vulnerable situation, which if you’re the junior or the follower, you are. Therefore, when we are talking to people that we oversee or lead we have to be 1000 times sure that we’re not taking advantage of the other’s vulnerability by expecting that they’ll ‘just be ok’ with the poor excuse for an apology that we’ll offer.
So if you’re not going to apologise, don’t. At least not until you’re willing to give an unreserved one. Genuine, repentant and unreserved apologies are just about the rarest thing I’ve ever encountered.
The good news is that like a light in the darkness, this only intensifies the power that we have to transform someone’s day, perhaps even life when we decide to apologise well. But it is the hardest thing on earth.
I’ve been pondering this question as to why an unreserved apology, where we entirely give up our rights to response and justification, is the most difficult thing to say.
Here’s the best I’ve gotten so far.
To admit that we were wrong, that we are capable of making huge mistakes cuts to the very core of our little self-salvation efforts that we tend to get drawn into.
To unreservedly admit a mistake is to also acknowledge that we need a saviour.
There is nothing that our flesh wants ignore more.
I have realised that how hard I find it to apologise to someone reveals exactly whether I am helping people because I believe I am better than them (and therefore I can solve their problems) OR, because I love Jesus and he loves them.
In other words; You can ‘help’ people for a long time out of a feeling of superiority and not know it…until it comes time to say sorry to them. That’s when we find out if we are really growing to be more Christlike or simply more…….Jonah-like.
There’s only one thing as courageous as calling out fake apologies in real-life conversations and that is calling them out in ourselves and, funnily enough, apologise for them.
Because that is what Jesus expects us to do. Because he loves us. He knows that every fake apology we get away with, spiritually kills us a little more each time. That’s why Jesus said: “unless you repent (acknowledge wrong and take 100% responsibility for it seeking to turn away from it) you will also perish.” (Luke 13:3)
Martin Luther said ‘all of life is repentance’ because he knew that the only alternative to repentance is self-deception.
Maybe right now, we’ve got nothing really to apologise for. Great!
But if and when we do, let’s not be fake with it. Let’s not make any excuses and in the process….