More Than Two Words

Hello Baysiders! Hope Summer is treating you well in your souls! May you all enjoy the last several weeks of summer and walk in the Spirit to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.

“I’m sorry.” So short. So powerful. If you’ve lived on this earth long enough you’ll realize those two words have become common to you and I as recipients or orators of such contrition. Our human species has a knack for causing trouble and inflicting pain to one another and those two words can be a new rope to a broken bridge . Whether the harm is intentional or not, saying I’m sorry can be the most powerful words that can be spoken.

However, as common as those two words are and our physical faculty in knowing how to mechanically say them, in addition to understanding their meaning and the right way to apply them, we as a human species are NOT that great at actually using them. Sure, maybe the small stuff we are really good and quick to say them, like stepping on someone’s foot on the bus. Or when you didn’t hear the words from the bank clerk and need the words repeated, you say “I’m sorry I didn’t catch that, what did you say?” But that’s easy. Very few struggle saying the two words in those situations. I am talking about the big stuff of life, like resentment you had for months against your spouse and need to apologize with those two words. Or like finally realizing your behavior is the one causing the friction in the relationship yet you are also proud and don’t want to admit you’re wrong even though you know you need to confess your misbehavior with those two words. Or like apologizing with those two words because you offended someone in order to protect your inflated ego. All are hard situations to say I’m sorry. Some people are a forty-four year old married man, with a mortgage, masters degree, and two kids and struggle with saying those two words. Those two words are a problem for a lot of us.

The Bible has a lot to say about those two words. The whole book of Leviticus is one large I’m sorry manual for Israel; God wants his people to know how to go about apologizing. The prophets are full of instructions and pleas for Israel’s wicked leaders and indifferent people to apologize and turn back to God. The Bible has one word for the two words I am talking about and that word is repentance. The parable of the Prodigal Son is full of lessons about repentance, apologizing, reconciliation, and is a spiritual mosaic of the two words. In fact, Jesus tells us saying, “I’m sorry” is the same as saying, “I repent” to someone who disrespects or harms us. In Luke 17:4, Jesus says, “…if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” The way to restored relationships, the right direction to forgiveness, and the solution to unending conflict is repentance and repentance starts with those two words.

I want to end with some practical steps for us to apply so we can be great orators of saying I’m sorry. There is additional action to take place besides saying those words. Just like repentance is more than just saying the word, saying I’m sorry implies a lot of work in the order to fix the broken bridge. Apologizing is more than two words. Though the two words are powerful, helpful and important when facing reconciliation, they are not sufficient. At times, only saying those two words can be a way to rid responsibility of an offense to see its real damage or be an easy excuse not to make any changes to the relationship or even a way to manipulate a conflict to your own agenda. Also, these six steps are equally efficient when applied to apologizing to God and should be the right path towards healthy faith.

Here our six steps to apologizing in a Christ centered way for our conflicted and broken relationships. First, express sorrow. This is done by saying the two words, “I’m sorry.” You can add flowers, coffee, a toy, or any other gift with those two words but it’s crucial these two words are spoken because if not, no matter the gift, the apology will be void and fake. This is the first step because it leads to all the other steps and if you skip this step, then apologizing is futile. Secondly, own guilt. This is you saying, “I was wrong.” Taking responsibility for your offense is telling the truth of the circumstance and not lying about it with your own proud smear brush on the beautiful painting of that relationship. Most of the time apologizing is never Christlike because the truth of the crime, wrong, offense, or story is never told by both parties. The truth shall set you free as Jesus once said. When the offender does not own the wrong, then he or she is holding up the lie over the truth of the victim’s pain. Only when the full truth of the situation and offenses are confessed will healing start. Thirdly, you need to name the specific(s) wrong. “I did x, y, and z,” is how you would do this step. By calling out your own wrongs, you are telling the hurt party that you understand their pain and role in the breakdown of relationship. This steps is for all the details of your wrong to be exposed and mitigated. Fourthly, name the impact. This is, “I hurt you.” When you talk about the impact that your actions had on the victim, you are emotionally empathizing with them; you’ve moved on from the ethical premise to now the relational fact of reconciliation. This is guilt that is healthy and good because it shows you are aware of someone’s else’s feelings besides your own. Often our problem with not apologizing or not going further with the steps is we only focus on our own feelings, pain, and point of view. Fifthly, don’t blame. We can poison the reconciliation by saying “but you…” There is no need to defend yourself if the goal is to have the other party restored back as it once was. Playing the blame game just shows you are socially immature and have no skill at addressing hard emotions in conflicting relationships. Lastly and sixthly, make amends. This comes out like, “What can I do to make us better?” There needs to be an action plan to your two words of I’m sorry. If not, then the behavior will continue and you will show the offending party that they are not valued. Repentance is an action word in the Bible. It means to turn around the other way that you were going. Before you were going the way of unconfession and pride but now you are heading to the way of humility, remorse, and reconciliation. When you’re actually interested in changing the relationship for the good of all parties involved, then the hurt party is loved as they need to be. It means the relationship matters and when you offer your services to make things better, the potential for a far better relationship arises. And when we do these steps, we come closer to understanding the relationship God has with us, a relationship started at offense of sin, but moved to repentance and ended at resurrection to his disciples with Jesus walking in their midst, saying, “Peace to you.” Then by grace, a miracle happens in our conflicted relationship, two words become three words.

Pastor Aaron (:^)