It’s Okay to say “I’m Sorry”
Some of you may remember the “Love is” comic strip. It still appears in newspapers. One of the most famous captions was “Love is…never having to say you’re sorry.” The truth is “Love is…being ready and willing to say you’re sorry.”
Apologies for slights big and small, intended and un-intended, help re-create a climate of safety. It amazes me still that there are adults who believe it is unnecessary to apologize to children: parents, teachers, youth workers. If anyone needs and deserves a culture of safety it is our children: the children in our families, our churches, our classrooms, our neighborhoods. Children learn to ask for forgiveness and admit a wrong because the adults around them have the capacity and maturity to do likewise.
Forgiveness, asking for it and offering it, is central to our Christian faith. This requires practice. I continue to be baffled and frustrated by people who believe the best way to discipline a child is with a swat to the backside. This is a clear sign to me that the foundations necessary for a culture of safety are missing. A culture of emotional and physical safety gives a child the fundamentals necessary for a productive life.
As parents, both Mike and I found there were good reasons to apologize to our children. We are far from perfect as parents. They learned that their feelings mattered. As we showed them respect, they in turn gave it to us 10 fold. “Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of anger will fail.” Proverbs 22:8. And in Galatians 6:7, “God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.”
In the Gulf of Mexico, an environmental disaster continues to unfold and will for possibly years in the aftermath. Instead of an apology, finger pointing and blame have been the order of the day. The lives of thousands and thousands of people are forever altered because their livelihoods are ended. The health of the eco-system of the entire Gulf coast is in jeopardy. All we can get from the people who created the problem, who do not even live in the region is finger pointing. How can we feel the future is safe in the hands of these people?
In our society today, an apology is seen as weakness. It is really a sign of moral character. The moral character of our nation would be much improved if more of us had the strength and moral courage to stand in genuine humility from time to time and simply say, “I’m sorry.”
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