I'm not talking about my zipper jacket (that turned into a vest) during the Michael Jackson era... although I do have regrets about such things.
I mean genuine stuff... things and choices that I took part in that even to this day makes me feel sick over.
There are the times I've hurt people with words and actions... which created a need for at least twice as many words and actions to try and recover what I'd lost with that person. Or when I did something in a work environment that created mistrust among my co-workers and myself. Of course, the greatest hurts were the ones that happened with those close to me - whether I was the culprit or the victim.
It’s not always easy to say the words, “I’m sorry.” And yet it can be quite frustrating to feel like you're always apologizing and that apology isn't getting through.
According to author Gary Chapman, we all have “primary” languages of apology – the ways that we feel most comfortable with giving and receiving an apology.
- Expressing Regret. This is the emotional component of an apology, the “I’m sorry.” This is admitting that you’ve hurt someone and that you are hurting because you’ve caused him or her pain.
- Accepting Responsibility. This step is often overlooked in today’s culture, but it is a necessary one for a successful apology. Regardless of whether or not the hurt was intentional or unintentional, accepting responsibility means stating, “I was wrong. It was my fault.”
- Making Restitution. This language takes the apology to another level by asking, “What can I do to make this wrong right?” It demonstrates a willingness to take action to bring healing to the relationship.
- Repentance. This step acknowledges your sentiment that you don’t want the offense to happen again, and that you’ll take all necessary steps within your power to see that it does not reoccur. This requires both a plan and implementation of the plan to keep the offense from happening again.
- Requesting Forgiveness. Asking for forgiveness, “Will you forgive me for what I’ve done to hurt you?” reflects the spiritual nature of our offense. The person you’ve hurt may choose not to forgive you. You can’t force forgiveness, but asking for it is the right thing to do. (See Matthew 5:23-24.) Whether the person chooses to forgive is his or her responsibility, not yours.
The good news is that God receives sincere apologies in any language. And yet as you continue on this 40 day Journey you may find yourself realizing there are people you need to apologize to as well. When my wife and I went through a study some years back called "The Bondage Breaker," I realized that I needed to ask for her forgiveness for things I did as a teenager that were still a part of my personality - things that didn't directly affect her but indirectly were a part of our relationship at the time because I'd let them be a part of me.
We've all been on the end of the "ask," and we've all been on the receiving end as well... waiting for someone we're convinced acted like a "jerk" to apologize to us. Sometimes we forget to give the grace we want to receive.
There's a classic "I blew it" moment in the life of King David that he initially tries to hide from. Once he's confronted with his sin, he decides to run the other direction - to literally go public with his sins. As a result, we have one of the most beautiful Psalms ever written on confession.
- Read Psalm 51, and chew on it a bit as you do.
- Take out a piece of paper and write a confession of your own to God... something in the vein of what you've just read.
- If you have the guts, share what you've written with someone close to you and ask them, to pray for you to walk in new grace as you let God take on the burden of that sin.
(Note: This post was automatically scheduled... because I'm on vacation)