The pop band OneRepublic sings this line in a chorus; “It’s too late to apologize, it’s too late.” The song tells the sad tale of a person who has been let down repeatedly by another – in fact too many times to forgive.
Is there really a threshold of no return on forgiveness? Or a limit to the grace we extend to each other?
All of us have been tempted to tell a colleague, team mate, parent or spouse that it’s simply too late to apologize. Many times it’s because what we offer each other, is not an apology.
An apology is the most powerful life changing action in the universe. Trouble is you’ve gotta mean what you say.
Check out these super practical principles I have found to help me out, more regularly than I care to admit. (I am indebted to the teaching of Sheri Wiedenhoefer from California.)
An Apology is not…
I am sorry “YOU…”
- You got bugged
- You don’t understand what I am talking about
- You caught me at a bad time
- You didn’t know I was a morning person
An Apology is…
- Acknowledging the fact of wrongdoing (ie. “I’m sorry I slammed the door” or “I’m sorry I said that.”)
- Taking full responsibility
- Expressing sincere sorrow and regret
- Promising to not re-commit the same offense again!!! (you demonstrate that you MEAN it!)
When I discovered an apology is a commitment to not re-offend, the lights went on. If I hurt my daughter with an outburst of anger, I commit to not offend her with that same phrase or in that same angry way again. If I follow through; she will learn to trust what I say. God will repair and deepen our relationship. Being imperfect I will likely offend her in different ways, but I will apologize for those offences and ask her forgiveness each time. You know something, it works.
Jesus says, “Even if it’s personal against you and repeated seven times through the day, and seven times he says, ‘I’m sorry, I won’t do it again,’ forgive him.” Luke 17:4
When we’re serious, a true apology takes on on the supernatural power of the cross. A power Harry Potter only dreams of grasping. It’s a power that turns upside down every natural human tendency to fight or repay evil with more evil.
It’s a power enough to cause the boys of OneRepublic, and bands worldwide, to rewrite their tirade songs of unforgiveness into songs of redemption and restoration of relationship.
I’m not saying to apologize is easy. I’m saying it’s worth the effort.
When was the last time you apologized, how did it go?