Let’s Talk About Apologies
By T F Tenney
I’ve often said that two of the most powerful phrases in English language are the phrases, “I’m sorry” and “Forgive me.” I stand by that statement. However, it is quite possible that these two most useful verbal encounters can be used as a hiding place for repeated wrong-doing.
This is illustrated by an instance in the life of Pastor Lloyd Ogilvie. The pastor was having lunch with a prominent businessman. A woman, who recognized the executive, sauntered across the restaurant to their table and greeted him with a hefty slap on his back, causing him to spill coffee on his suit. Then, with a flamboyant gesture, she tossed her fur stole over her shoulder, brushing Dr. Ogilvie full in the face. “Oh, I’m so terribly sorry,” she apologized. Looking straight at the woman, the businessman said, “Madam, don’t be sorry. Be different.”
That struck me as unique. Don’t be sorry. Be different. I have often said, “God forgives sins but not excuses.” Do you know of one scripture where God said He would forgive all of our excuses? Someone has said, “An excuse is a lie with skin on it.” It is important, not just to simply say, “I’m sorry. I apologize” but then to make a concerted effort to be different, to act different.
It was the Apostle Paul who said, “Godly sorrow works repentance” (11 Corinthians 7:10). The word “works” literally means “produces.” The fruit of real Godly sorrow means change. Is God interested in apologies alone? I think not. When we fail, He is primarily interested in repentance. Someone said of the Lord, “He looks for remorse that results in a different attitude and a change of behavior.” This is the Godly sorrow that leads to repentance. With that statement, I agree.
Godly sorrow is always backed by the power of God’s spirit to change. It makes us stronger to resist temptation, more dependent on God, less sure of ourselves. Being sorry for your sins is all right but, you’ve got to be sorry enough to quit them. Another writer stated, “Crying and a pblic apology are no substitutes for genuine humility, submission to church discipline, and a desire to do right.” It is good to feel sorry for sin. But God wants us to yield our hands, feet, eyes, ears, and brains as instruments of righteousness to Him.
An unknown writer said, “Apologies are out of order if we have neither the desire nor the intention to change.”
It is also important for us to remember; there are some problems that can’t be solved. There are times when it is hard to determine who or what is to blame. I’ve often said the important lesson is not to determine who is to blame, but what can be done about it. I read sometime ago about a man called Jones who was hurrying along a street one night when another man, also in violent haste, rushed out from a side street. The two collided with great force. The second man looked angry, but Jones, with his inborn courtesy, raised his hat and said, “My dear sir, I don’t know which of us is to blame for this violent encounter. But I am in too great a hurry to investigate. If I ran into you, I beg your pardon. If you ran into me, don’t mention it.” He then tore away at redoubled speed.
So, there we go . . . a few comments on what it means to really apologize. If you can change it, be different. If you can’t, forget it, chalk it up to experience, and let life and God roll on.
The above article was published in Ohio Apostolic News, September, 1991
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