The Pragmatism of Apology

It’s not a deliberate thing that I have gained so much practice in the way of apology over the years; it’s just an incidental result of making so many mistakes.

I’ve heard that some folks hate to apologize and I suppose it’s true. I don’t know if I’m lucky or cursed but I always found it worse to not apologize. Knowing that I’d done something that hurt and/or angered someone else never really set very well with me and my conscience. The feeling of knowing I’d not come clean on some wrong thing done always ate at me inside.

Rather than try to hide it I just found it easier to say, “Well, you know what? I really screwed up on that one and I’m sure sorry about it. Wish I hadn’t done it, wish I could take it back, wish it had never happened but by golly gosh, it did and I was the one who happened it. I sure hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me but whether you do or not, I am genuinely sorry for having done it.”

Sometimes, I might reframe that just a bit but my better apologies always include an acknowledgement that I did something and that something caused some sort of pain, problem or inconvenience for someone else. No excuses, no shifting of blame and no hedging. Apologies that do that become oxymorons.

I had a guy once say to me, “I’m sorry if you took offense at what I did.”

That was not an apology; it was an accusation that put the blame on my reaction. In fact, what the guy had done would have offended anyone with half a brain and most people with less than that. He deserved to be thoroughly chastised, slightly beaten and maybe even shot with a pitchfork. He wasn’t sorry for what he’d done but rather that I’d taken offense at it.

A good sincere apology doesn’t just help salvage relationships; it will often end up making them better. Our apology shows that we care enough about the relationship to eat a little crow and humiliate ourselves rather than be prideful. It shows that we are aware enough to know and loving enough to care that we’ve goofed up and that goof has caused some manner and measure of trouble for someone else.

By example as well as directive, Jesus taught us to forgive others even when they don’t ask. Forgiving others makes life easier for us. Asking others to forgive us makes life easier for both. And isn’t life hard enough otherwise anyway?

H. Arnett

About Doc Arnett

Native of southwestern Kentucky currently living in Ark City, Kansas, with my wife of twenty-nine years, Randa. We have, between us, eight children and twenty-eight grandkids. We enjoy singing, worship, remodeling and travel.
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