“I wish I was wasn’t born into this family!”
“I wish we were never friends!”
“I wish I could cut off ties with you!”
In the heat of the moment, we often utter the above phrases or simply conjure up the thought when we argue with friends or family (I admit I do it too!). We’re so riled up with anger that we speak whatever is on our mind and whatever helps us to escape from losing the argument. We never apologise either, thinking that time will heal and help us to forget and move on. However, we continue bearing the grudges, the hurt, and the memories of our argument, even years on.
It is in moments like these where SORRY becomes the most powerful word in unleashing forgiveness and maintaining our relationships with people.
It is a simple, five-letter word.
Yet, it is often the hardest word to utter with sincerity. How many times do we say sorry and actually mean it? Do we say sorry for being late to a meeting? Do we say sorry for wrongfully accusing someone? Do we say sorry for words that have hurt people? We rarely do — what more when we think we’re right? However, when we utter this simple word and mean it, we realise that it takes humility to admit we’re wrong, courage to put others first, and maturity to admit responsibility for what we have done!
THE COURAGE TO BE HUMBLED
I’m sure many of us have been hurt by the words and actions of others. Joseph was no different in this respect!
When he was just 17 years old, Joseph’s brothers plotted to kill him (Gen 37:18–20).They stripped him and threw him into a pit where there was no water (Gen 37:23–24). They even lied to Jacob, their father, that Joseph was devoured by an animal, when in fact they had sold him off to Ishmaelites (Gen 37:27–28)!
Chapters later in the book of Genesis, we read about how the guilt of such treachery against Joseph ate at their conscience (Gen 42:21). Their confession of wrongdoing led Joseph to weep (Gen 42:24)!
Will we allow someone to close a chapter of hurt in their lives through our courage to say a simple apology?
Just as how Joseph needed to hear that his brothers were sorry about the wrong they did to him, our friends or family might also need to hear a simple “I’m sorry” to move on from the hurt that we have caused them. By courageously apologising and mending a broken relationship, you could bring healing to both them and yourself today!
THE COURAGE TO PUT OTHERS FIRST
When we apologise, we also put other people’s feelings and emotions above our own. You may feel that you are right, or even that you have nothing to apologise for, but putting others first means that we humble ourselves and say sorry anyway for whatever hurt we may have unknowingly caused. As Philippians 2:3–4 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others”.
I’VE COME TO REALISE THAT SAYING SORRY ISN’T ABOUT ME, ME, AND ME. IT HAS AND ALWAYS WILL BE ABOUT OTHERS
As teenagers, our quick tongue retorts or talks back to whatever our parents say. I talked back to my parents so often as a teen that they thought I would become a lawyer in the future! However, have we thought about the hurt that we might actually be causing them with our supposedly quick-witted words of rebellion? Have we thought about things from the perspectives of our parents? I’ve come to realise that saying sorry isn’t about me, me, and me. It has and always will be about others!
I recently watched a TED talk by Shann Ray Ferch, a writer who focuses on forgiveness studies, about an incident with his wife’s family. Once, his father-in-law made a sharp remark to his wife, which Ferch did not even think was particularly harsh. However, later in the evening, his father-in-law came and apologised to Ferch, which confused him. When Ferch insisted he did not have to apologise for anything, his father-in-law said: “In our family, we ask forgiveness of the person that we harmed, and also everybody else that was there in order to restore the dignity of the one that was harmed.”
Ferch’s story inspires me to not merely apologise for the sake of apologising, but to genuinely apologise for the wrong I have done. Just like Philippians 2:3–4, it inspires me to think of the feelings of the people I’ve hurt and put their feelings above my own selfishness and reluctance to say “I’m sorry”.
THE COURAGE TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY
Moreover, saying a simple “I’m sorry” signifies that we willingly take a part of the blame.
I clearly remember the days of a breakup, when my boyfriend cheated on me with another girl. It broke my heart and left me in pain, leaving me to grapple with the broken shards. I hated seeing his face, and I hated having to work with him.
The closure of this chapter in my life came with his apology while I was on a mission trip to Thailand. That simple phrase, “I’m sorry”, ministered so deeply to me and helped me to move on. I felt my heart grow lighter as God allowed all the bitterness to wash away I knew it wasn’t easy for him to say it. The amount of guilt that weighed on his heart must have become lighter upon saying those two words and admitting the mistake that he had made. Since then, we’ve chosen forgiveness and put aside our bitterness and resentment and continue to be friends today.
I FELT MY HEART TO GROW LIGHTER AS GOD ALLOWED ALL THE BITTERNESS TO WASH AWAY
When we own up to a mistake and apologise, a great burden is lifted off us, but also from others.
TWO SIMPLE WORDS
It’s never easy to release healing to someone who has hurt you or whom you’ve hurt. But that’s why we also do need an extra ounce of courage from God to step out of our comfort zone to do what is right and needed rather than inhabit our own bubble. Will you willingly take God’s hand to step out and apologise today?