Saying “I’m Sorry”

Those three little words can be tough . . . OK, so it’s two words if you use the contraction, but you get my point. I’ve had a really hard time with them over the years, especially if I wasn’t to blame. 

Now, you’re thinking . . . “What, you say you’re sorry even if you’re not to blame?” 

Well, not every time.  There are those exceptional occasions when another person caused the whole offense, and I had no part in it. Unfortunately, they’re rare. If I’m honest, I can take responsibility for some part of every disagreement, misunderstanding and event that requires an apology.

But the most frustrating part of the “I’m Sorry” saga is watching people who never take responsibility for anything. You’ve met them, the perfect ones. They don’t need to change a thing, they have it all figured out. It’s frustrating for me as a leader in a church because those folks are stuck.

All my life I’ve lived with men who can fix anything. First my Dad, then my husband and Father-in-law. Yep, if it’s broke they can fix it. The problem is they can’t fix it if they can’t tell it’s broke. When I was young, I remember my mom having some car problems, but when Daddy took it for a drive, the car ran perfectly. There was nothing he could do because he couldn’t see or hear any problems. After I married, I discovered it wasn’t just my dad! My husband and Father-in-law had the same difficulty. I’ve come to believe that a car knows whose driving it, and will not make the noises when the mechanically inclined are behind the wheel. 

Whatever the reason for the car running soundly for the men in my life, the fact they couldn’t diagnose the problem didn’t mean there wasn’t one. It just meant the car couldn’t get better. 

It’s the same for us humans. Just because we don’t take responsibility for our mistakes doesn’t mean we didn’t make any. Coming across as perfect doesn’t make me respect a person more, it makes me suspicious. When a person has an answer for everything and never has a story that includes how they messed it up, I start looking for the place in their life journey where they got stuck. 

Let me give you a few examples:

Divorce . . . it takes two people to make a marriage strong. If you’re on the road to divorce and you didn’t do a thing to damage the marriage, you’re stuck. (Unless, of course, you’ve been beaten, physically or emotionally. You should never take responsibility for someone attacking you, with their fists or their words.)

Parenting . . . that’s one of the toughest jobs out there. Even if your kids have turned out better than anyone could have possibly hoped, if you’ve never taken stock of things you wish you’d done different, you’re stuck.

Friendship . . . (or the end of one) If you have a friendship that ended and it’s all the other person’s fault, you’re stuck.

In every relationship, every situation, you could probably do something different to make it smoother. Perhaps what you did was your best, you didn’t know any better. That’s OK. Take responsibility for the fact you could have done better and move on. Don’t beat yourself up for it. Don’t even relive it until you think you figured out a better way to have done it. 

But DO admit it. DO embrace every bit of your responsibility in something gone wrong, whether it’s an automobile accident or a relationship mishap. (Yes, your insurance agent would prefer you don’t take responsibility until after the police report is filed) In order to grow and become the best person I can be, at some point admit I have to admit that even if it was for the most part the other person’s fault there may have been something I could have done differently to avoid the damage.

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