I’m Sorry: Lessons in the Art of Apologizing

As a girl, I think I read Lucy Maud Montgomery’s whole Anne of Green Gables series at least ten times.  My friends and I used to watch the movies together and even gave each other nicknames from the story.  To this day, my friend still writes notes addressed to me as “Anne” that are signed, “Diana.”

There’s a moment in the movie when Gilbert pleads for Anne’s forgiveness and says, “I’m sorry” in his Canadian accent with a puppy-dog look in his eyes.  That always sent us into giggles, a whole room full of middle school girls just tickled to pieces by his apology.

I can’t say for sure why the story of Anne has been on my mind so much lately or why I’ve been dying to watch the movies again after more than a decade.  But maybe it’s because of Gilbert’s, “I’m sorry” and the fact that those are words we’ve been hearing and saying around my house a lot lately.

Now that my baby girl is two-and-a-half, we’ve been trying to teach her the principles of personal responsibility and forgiveness. She’ll stomp her way out of her bedroom with her arms crossed tightly across her chest and her eyebrows crinkled in anger.  Then she’ll tattle.  “Lauren jumped and hit me on my arm.  Victoria dropped her book and it hit me on the head.”

Usually, it’s all just an accident, a mishap resulting from too much silliness at bedtime.

Whatever the circumstance, purposeful hurt, accident, or misunderstanding, my toddler feels the need to receive justice and isn’t in the mood to give grace.

So, we make a big deal out of demonstrating a proper apology to her.  The offender looks her in the eye and says very clearly, “I’m sorry for . . . ” and then hugs her to seal the reconciliation, which she normally rejects.  She’d prefer to feel angry for a while.

The goal, ultimately, is to teach her that when she pushes others or knocks over her sister’s Lego tower or messes up their projects, she needs to say, “I”m sorry” in just that same way.

We’re still working on that part.

This is all a matter of grace. It’s learning that sometimes we mess up and hurt others and we need to own up to that.  There are few things more humbling—and downright hard—then saying, “That was my fault.  I was wrong.  I’m sorry.”

Yet, grace is much easier to give when we’ve been the recipient of grace ourselves.  Likewise, it’s a little bit easier to apologize when we realize we aren’t the only ones who make mistakes sometimes.

It’s all a matter of remembering what’s been done for us already.

God makes this point throughout Scripture, reminding the nation of Israel often to remember where they came from, what they’d been through, and how God had rescued them.  That national memory needed to impact how they treated others, particularly the poor, oppressed, and weakest among them.

God said:

“You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21).

“You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34).

“You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today”
(Deuteronomy 15:15)

“Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt
(Deuteronomy 10:19).

God reminded them all the time that they were slaves in Egypt, toiling hopelessly with no freedom or self-determination.  Their sons were murdered at birth.  Their worship hindered.  For 400 years, they had been the oppressed people.

Then God rescued them and blessed them.  He led them to the Promised Land and gave them victory.

So, remember, He said, to treat foreigners, the poor, widows, and orphans well by blessing them and loving them.  Why?  Because that used to be you.

It’s no surprise, then, that Paul picks up a similar theme in the New Testament, this time reminding new believers to forgive others because Christ had delivered them and forgiven them in the same way.

Paul wrote:

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

and

bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive
(Colossians 3:13).

The nation of Israel had no excuse for treating foreigners poorly, because they had spent centuries being mistreated as foreign slaves in Egypt.

In the same way, we who were once slaves to sin, who have been forgiven, who Christ died for so graciously, have no excuse for not forgiving others.  God overlooked the fact that we didn’t deserve it.  He put aside the issue of whether some would even accept it, and He chose to give grace any way.  So must we.

We model apologizing and forgiveness for my two-year-old, hoping that she’ll learn these principles of grace.  That’s a modeling job we all should be taking on in our homes, at our jobs, with our friends, in our ministries, and in the community.  We show others that we’ve received grace, so we give grace.  We forgive, just as God in Christ forgave us.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

2 thoughts on “I’m Sorry: Lessons in the Art of Apologizing

  1. Bill Jones says:

    Thanks Heather – great example and connecting of Old and New Testament Scriptures that makes it clear – God expects us to treat others the way He has treated us.

    • Heather C. King says:

      Bill, I love how God’s character remains consistent throughout Scripture. His heart and passion remains clear and focused in both Old and New Testaments. Thanks for commenting!

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