I'm Sorry?

Have the words, "I'm sorry," become so automatic that they no longer carry any weight?  From the moment we  learn to speak, our parents train us to utter those two words whenever they think we've wronged.  True to our training, many of us utter those words reflexively.  Look up the definition of apology in the dictionary and you may be surprised by the two primary definitions:

1: a formal justification : defense2: an admission of error or discourtesy accompanied by an expression of regret
While I'd like to believe that my apologies are in line with #2 (i.e. repentance), I instinctively feel the need to explain why I did what I did.  Most people who've been wronged wouldn't feel any better after receiving such an apology.  After all, you've hurt them.  Do they really want to hear why?

Why do we apologize anyways?  When we're taught to apologize as soon as we've been caught, we understand apologies to be a consequence.  When we're caught, we apologize.  If we don't apologize, the punishment will be more severe.  Hence, our goal is to avoid getting caught.  And, if we fail that, apologize so we suffer less punishment.  With that in mind, it makes sense that we launch into a defense and justification.

But inside, I think we all know that an apology should be less about justification and more about admitting error.  Apologies should be less about us and more about the person who's been harmed.  Whatever our intention, whatever our reason, our actions have caused harm.  When we aplogize, our first and foremost thought should be to make that person whole.

With our children, I no longer ask them to apologize.  Rather, I'll ask them to make it right.  That should include an apology but only as part of a larger act of making the harmed person whole.  Physical or emotional, the wound must be bandaged.  An emotional bandage requires an assurance that a lesson has been learned and the harm should not be repeated.

For many, this may seem rudimentary.  I would've thought so too.  I pray that when I harm someone, I don't do further damage with an apology that smacks of self-preservation rather than wronging a right.  For my children, I pray that I can be a godly example.

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