How to (and How not to) Say Sorry

How to (and How not to) Say Sorry

Let not my lord hold me guilty . . . For your servant knows that I have sinned. 2 Samuel 19:19-20

As addicts have usually caused much injury in the lives of those around us, we have had much to apologize for. We should be good at it, but because it is our nature to follow ourselves above all, saying I’m sorry, can be difficult.

I have several ways in which I err when I try to apologize. First, I will often add an explanation for the bad behavior for which I am repenting. I’m sorry for what I did, but if you only understood my circumstances . . . As I justify my toxic behavior to myself, I long for others to see what I did as not so bad.

Second, I will frequently apologize, not for my bad behavior, but for the offense perceived. I’m sorry you are so sensitive and that you were offended. This tactic shifts blame from me to the one I’ve hurt, mitigating my responsibility.

Finally, I often will say that I am sorry, just to achieve restoration and forgiveness, with no plan to actually change my behavior. I’m so sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me (but I’m not going to change). 

In today’s passage, Shimei, a Benjamite leader who rebelled against King David, provided a model apology. In the passage, Shimei humbly approached the king, acknowledged his transgression and asked forgiveness. He did not try to justify. He did not blame. He confessed, and he changed his ways. David was swayed, and spared his life.

The apology of Shimei is difficult for us as it is hard to humble ourselves and to truly change. Saying I’m sorry, is not about justifying, blaming or continuing our destructive behavior. Saying I’m sorry, means admitting we were wrong, grieving the injury we caused, and changing our ways.

If we insist on following ourselves to our destruction, we may do so, but, if we desire to live at peace with God, others and ourselves, we must learn to do I’m sorry, the right way.

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