Here are the hardest two-and-a-half words for me to say: “I’m sorry.” Well, that’s not entirely true. I say “I’m sorry” quickly. But I find it hard to say “I’m sorry” and actually mean it.
I suspect this struggle is a common one; you may find recognizing and owning up to your own sin, humbling yourself to someone else, and verbalizing it to them to be one of the hardest things to do in life. It’s just so much easier to blame someone else, or to ignore the conflict altogether, or to come up with reasons that explain our behavior, than it is to look someone in the eyes, admit we were wrong, and ask their forgiveness.
I’ve found there are three ways to begin an apology:
- I’m sorry we…
- I’m sorry you…
- I’m sorry I…
I’ve also found that two of these don’t seem to work. Two of these are ways to say you are sorry without really saying you are sorry. Or, to be more accurate, to say you are sorry while still justifying yourself.
Here we find the great temptation: self-justification. It may show up as pride or self-righteousness, but when we seek to justify ourselves, what we are really doing is entirely natural. We’re thinking and feeling and living the way that people who are aware, whether we admit it or not, that we don’t measure up. Measuring up to what, or to whom, is the question.
This is why the gospel is so unnatural—and so needed. In the gospel, God justifies us because of Jesus, not because of what we do for Him. Without the gospel, we try to justify ourselves because of what we do, not because of what Jesus did for us.
So the next time we find ourselves in a conflict or a broken relationship, and we’re tempted to do what comes natural, to justify our actions in our own minds, let us remember the gospel. Let us remember that our broken relationships with each other echo the more pressing breach in our relationship with God. And let us remember that recognizing our own sin, and owning up to it in front of another, and seeking and receiving forgiveness, is a testimony to others of the glories of the gospel.
Question: Do you find it hard to apologize?