52019Feb
All Apologies

All Apologies

The other day at work, I was not in a good mood. Often, when my mood is in the dumps, I spew sarcasm. Sometimes, others laugh at my responses to annoyances around me. However, many times these comments can be hurtful. In this particular case, after I had made one of my notorious comments, I pondered how it might have seemed to those around me. A few nights before, my loving and concerned wife let me know how I was affecting her. My frustration with some things in life was leading me to respond with sarcasm and vent sessions. Since Melissa has a desire to see me happy and content, she said it led her to feel like she needed to tip-toe around me. That’s the last thing I wanted! This really bothered me. I apologized to her and we discussed what was going on to lead to my demeanor. Fast-forward to my situation at work. Thankfully, that interaction with Melissa caused me to be more aware of how I was behaving around my coworkers. After realizing that some of my comments might have been hurtful, I went to those who heard my remarks, apologized, and explained that my frustrations were my issue and in no way were indicative of how I felt about them. However, I did not want to continue making them uncomfortable around me. I don’t want my friends to feel like they must walk on eggshells! 

How often do we apologize?  

It’s an important question to ask ourselves. If we cannot remember the last time we apologized for something, then there’s a problem. We are imperfect people who intentionally and unintentionally hurt each other all the time. If we aren’t apologizing, we are missing something and creating barriers in our relationships with others. We’ve all done things that we need to apologize for in recent history. We shouldn’t have to look too far in the past to find a transgression. 

Some of us over-apologize.

If we’ve apologized to 15 different people in the last 15 minutes, then that very well may be a problem, too. We cannot be responsible for everything that goes wrong! Some of us feel tremendous guilt almost constantly. We begin to apologize for things almost out of habit, saying we’re sorry just because someone else is inconvenienced when we had no control over it at all. It’s important to own our mistakes, but it is also important not to take the blame for things that are not ours to own.  

Sincere and heartfelt apologies are a door to a wonderful gift from God.

Simply put, there can be too much or too little of this very important behavior. Apologizing isn’t just a behavior, though. When it’s done the way God intended it, then it is a heart-driven act that is born out of acknowledgment that we have done something wrong and that we have hurt someone. Authentic apologies are an attempt to tap into one of God’s wonderful and miraculous gifts of grace: forgiveness.  

Forgiveness is essential to receive and to be offered to others.

Forgiveness sets us free from the bondage of guilt. It prevents guilt from morphing into shame, which is much akin to a crippling disease of the soul. Forgiveness can lead to reconciliation and restoring damaged relationships. It can initiate the healing of deep wounds. It’s just too important of a gift to miss out on. 

We need to be aware of a false approach to forgiveness through apologies.

There are ways in which we can say we are sorry, but not pursue the forgiveness we need. In 2 Corinthians 10:7, Paul refers to this imposter as “worldly grief (sorrow)”. Here are some clues that we may be engaging in worldly sorrow and not acting out of repentance and seeking true forgiveness:  

We are only looking to get ourselves off the hook for something.      

Deep inside, we are looking for the other person to respond in a certain way. Maybe we want them to apologize for something, too. 

We demand that we be forgiven because “God says you should forgive me”. 

We have no desire to spend ample time trying to understand the hurt we have caused. 

We minimize the sin we have committed, or deny it is a sin at all. We refuse to own the entirety of what we have done. This delegitimizes the hurt we’ve caused. 

There is a wonderful question that we need to be asking those around us: “How am I affecting you?”

So, let’s be careful to examine our hearts for occasions in which we need to seek and offer forgiveness. Let’s make it a habit of asking those around us how we are affecting them. There will be times in which we find that we are not at fault. Many times, we will find that we are. Let’s start the process by talking to God first. Receiving the reality of His forgiveness is absolutely necessary as a foundation to seeking it from others. We must be firmly wrapped up in His love in order to fully own the depths of our wrongdoings. Without experiencing his unconditional love in the midst of our guilt, we will find it impossible to humble ourselves with those we have hurt.

-Neil

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