In the chapter “Repentance” in her Lenten study on forgiveness, Majorie J. Thompson writes, “It can feel remarkably hard to apologize to someone, even for a relatively minor offense.”
But for me, it is remarkably easy to reflexively say, “I’m sorry,” even for minor offenses I didn’t commit.
Countless think pieces have been written about how women apologize too much and why. When Pantene adopted the slogan “Don’t be sorry. Be strong and shine” for an ad campaign in 2014, Jessica Bennett, a columnist for Time.com, wrote, “When a shampoo brand is telling us to stop apologizing, it’s fair to say we’ve reached a sorry tipping point.”
These unearned, unthinking I’m sorrys just come rolling out. They have become a verbal tic devoid of meaning. I give out a dozen a day because of manners, or deeply entrenched sexism, or even deeper feelings of inadequacy.
But repentance – the real, faithful “I was wrong and I am sorry” — requires shedding manners, preconceived notions, and feelings of inadequacy. To God, none of these things matter. A kneejerk, automatic “I’m sorry” is a habit that will impede my path to forgiveness when the time comes that honest repentance is required. Meek and unnecessary apologetic language shows I do not know myself, or accept myself. And being self-aware opens the door to repentance.
All the little I’m sorrys that I don’t mean cause me to waste away each time.
All the big I’m sorrys that I don’t say cause me to waste away too — as it says in Psalm 32: “While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.”
The same strength – generated by God’s enduring love — is needed to stop saying “I’m sorry” when I shouldn’t and to say “I’m sorry” when I should.
Friends and members of our Christ Church family have prepared these daily reflections as a means for you to consider how forgiveness informs your faith walk during this holy season. They are a richly diverse group from many different geographies around our nation and globe, formed by a wide variety of traditions.