"Sorry": The Hardest Word?

Author: Paschal Uche

Picture: Pixabay

"Sorry": The Hardest Word?

Carefully-worded apologies have become the norm in society. The Lord calls us to apologise genuinely and change our lives, says Paschal Uche.

The 2002 Blue song, “Sorry seems to be the hardest word”, captured a powerful truth.

This is something I can identify with. As a child, if I ever fell out with my sisters-which happened most weeks-I would accept being told to take time out, to go to my room or even do the dishes.

However, to say sorry seemed to strike a nerve and initiate an internal resistance. I found it hard to swiftly and sincerely apologise.

Why are apologies so difficult?

Clouded By Excuses

It seems I am not alone.

Recently several public figures whose actions have been publicly exposed offered statements of regret, excuse and explanations for their actions. However, many seemed to stop short of a full apology.

For example, when Kent model Jo Marney was pulled up for her racist comments towards Meghan Markle, her apology stated: "My words have been taken out of context. No offence was intended and, again, I apologise unreservedly for any such offence or hurt caused. Who can realistically say they have never said anything offensive in private?"

This apology seems clouded by excuses and cushioned by a disclaimer.

I do not take the high moral ground. When I reflect on why I found it hard to say sorry, I realise I did not want the shame that comes with your little sister sticking her tongue out and saying: “Ha ha- I told you so!”

When all I want to do is hold tight to that unconquerable, competent and powerful image I have of myself, to admit I am wrong can initially make me feel vulnerable, powerless or even incompetent.

Part of a Bigger Picture

In a Ted Talk I heard recently, Harriet Lerner suggested apologies are not so much about the issues, but people.

Or, as I like to say, the heart of the issue is the issues of my heart.  

A person needs to have a big “sturdy platform of self-worth” to view our mistakes as part of a much bigger picture of who we are. The alternative platform is a “tight rope of defensiveness.”  

When Jesus meets Zacchaeus, he meets a man who is spiritually sick. He has cheated many and lives off the interest of his unlawful gain.

Interestingly Jesus does not tell him to apologise. There is no false pressure or expectation. Instead Zacchaeus experiences the love of God in the person of Christ.

Maybe it was the truth and love in the eyes of Jesus that warmed his heart and moved him. Pope Francis speaks about the way Jesus looked at people, seeing beyond their weaknesses and failings.

Whatever it was, the power of this encounter resulted in a full and heartfelt apology.

Real Apology, Real Encounter

A real apology is based on a real encounter, an encounter that repairs both the relationship broken and the reputation of the wrongdoer.

In the light of God’s love, our identity is revealed and our relationships can be healed. Jesus came not for the righteous, but the sick.

The sacrament of confession is a real encounter. Here I meet Jesus who forgives me so I can forgive others.

A fruit of this encounter is that sturdy platform of self-worth and the grace I need to make a whole and heartfelt apology.

Justin Bieber famously asked: "Is it too late now to say sorry?"  I suggest that “no” is the answer.

Getting right with God is key to getting right with ourselves and, in turn, getting right with others.

When that is the case, we stop making excuses and start making real apologies.

  • Paschal Uche is a seminarian training for ministry to the priesthood.

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