Let’s face it, we are people in our families. That means we mess up. We make mistakes. We sin against each other. We do wrong. When that is the case, what should we do next?
But let me encourage you to do more than simply say I’m sorry. It is so easy to say, “I’m sorry,” and not consider what we mean. For what are we sorry? Are we sorry we got caught? Are we sorry they didn’t like what we did? Are we sorry if it upset them? Are we sorry they are mad at us?
Instead of justing saying, “I’m sorry,” take personal responsibility. Consider some other things you can say that really drive home what you ought to be meaning:
- “What I did was wrong.”
- “I had no right to do what I did.”
- “There is no justification for the way I acted.”
- “I shouldn’t have done that, I won’t do that again.”
You get the idea that this is more than just rolling off a trite phrase. This is about recognizing we did something wrong no matter how the person we are apologizing to has acted.
Further, if we have done wrong, we have driven a wedge in the relationship and it needs to be reconciled. But that can only happen if the person you wronged is willing to offer you mercy. Therefore, don’t just say, “I’m sorry.” Ask them to reconcile the relationship. “Will you forgive me?”
But remember two things about this. First, when you are asking for forgiveness you are saying you sinned. You didn’t just make a mistake. You didn’t just flub up. You sinned. Therefore, asking for forgiveness must not become another trite phrase to just try to cover up what you did. Second, you are asking for mercy. You can’t ask for forgiveness and then demand it be done. If the person owed it to you, then it wouldn’t be mercy.
“Oh, but Edwin,” someone cries, “God commands that they forgive me.” It is true that God’s children are called to forgive. But that is something they owe God. It is not something they owe you. You are not the one to get to make that demand on them. They don’t owe you anything.
Is there anything in any of your family relationships that has driven a wedge between you? Why not step up to the plate, take your personal responsibility, apologize for your wrong, and seek forgiveness. Don’t get distracted by what they did to you, clean up your side of the street.