Just the other day I received an email out of the blue from a former colleague. A bit bewildered as to the reason for the email and yet giddy with curiosity, I opened with eager anticipation. The email was a simple asking for coffee and to enlighten her how she had wronged me with the opportunity to right any wrong. My jaw stiffened and I felt a scowl roll across my face. Then I saw the words “I’m sorry” in the body and I was even more disgusted. Lately I found that the words “I’m sorry” are just a form of lip service and not a request for forgiveness as the statement or question of “Forgive me” would suggest.
My perturbed nature was suddenly a feeling of indifference. Realizing this email was more about her than me I began to feel a bit of pity. I had moved on from the offense and thought nothing of it and had forgiven her some time ago. Understanding that my colleague had somehow been spoken to by someone in authority regarding my situation, albeit several months later, the email was more about her guilt or feeling of responsibility than my feelings. I was also not quite understanding the point of the email many months after I had left my staff position and shared my experience in confidence. Telling myself this story in my head that she had probably been spoken to about my exit interview had me at an impasse.
Did I really want an empty, thoughtless and flippant apology like I was seeing in this email? Where I had to revisit the offense I had moved on from. Did I really want some form of friendship to form from this encounter and person? Was she really feeling any remorse for her actions?
My answer to these questions resulted in a stiff, indifferent, “no.” I wanted an apology more than “I’m sorry,” but I did not want an apology that was dutiful and I was rather okay with not receiving any form of apology. As I said, I forgave her and moved on. So call me selfish, but I would rather have someone ask for forgiveness than state a hollow and obligatory “sorry” especially when I already forgave them.
During my walk with Christ I have found that sorry is to express pity or the Old English meaning of pained, which would suggest self pain. I researched where being sorry comes into play from Jesus’ teachings and I found no mentions of sorry other than a reference of someone or something being sorry as in pitiful. Forgiveness, on the other hand, was in an abundance.
Forgiveness and the humility of asking “forgive me” are so deeply powerful. When you Google “sorry” or “I’m sorry” the results are entertaining. From memes to the board game, but hardly any strong mention of any intentional or striking sense of meaning. Searching for the term forgiveness is a whole different topic. Immediately you are presented with the definition of forgiveness, the introduction of the definition is marked by the words “intentional and voluntary.” How awesome is that? I literally get chills when I read this definition.
The term I’m sorry always reminds me of the word “sure.” I was in high school when my friend and I were discussing words and their meanings and we bantered on about how “sure” is the noncommittal word for yes. Sure basically means, yes with a whatever tone, to suggestÂ you really have nothing else better to do with your life so, sure. Laugh away chuckles, but sure is such an indifferent word of agreement, yes? I’m sorry in my opinion is viewed much the same, its a way of offering up condolences to a person who has been wronged or hurt, but does not offer any feelings of intention to the other person. Basically you are saying, “Oh you are (or were) hurt, get over it.”
Stating or asking “forgive me” would suggest that the offender realizes they may have done something to inflict harm. Through their acknowledgment, they know the offense is more about the other person than their own selfish feelings. Asking for the offenders forgiveness is admitting you are wrong and allows the other person to have a change of feeling or attitude. Forgiveness is releasing someone from their obligation. Think of “thank you” and “You’re welcome” by one person saying thank you they are acknowledging the gift they received while the giver is releasing them from any duty by saying they are welcome. Meaning, they are welcome to have helped or obliged the gift.
A brother wronged is more unyielding than a fortified city;
disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel.
Can you see the fortified city? Heavy bars, guards, the whole place is on offense complete with a moat, tanks, ready to strike at a moments notice. The picture reminds me of a medieval castle with the parapets lined with armed men and archers.
Now can you see the dispute as just a barred, or locked gate? The locked gate would suggest you knock and announce yourself to enter. I see the dispute and barred gate like agreeing to disagree, there are no hard feelings and everyone can move forward. Whereas the fortified city is where your brother or sister in Christ is guarding their heart with every ounce of energy from their hurt. The only way to bring down the barriers and heavy artillery is through humble asking of forgiveness, the portrayal of love to say “forgive me, I hurt you and that was not my intention.”
Thinking back on the email I received I wonder if my tone and attitude would have been different had the conversation gone a bit like this, “forgive me for how I hurt you, that was not my intention.” Instead when I was faced with what felt like pride and duty, my response was more of indifference, maybe even a twinge of a fortified city. I’m reminded of Jesus when he sacrificed himself, an apology to his Father, for his Earthly children for who we are as people, coupled with Rogerian beliefs that we are all inherently good, but we make poor decisions that have negative repercussions and or results.
This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Matthew 26:28
Have you ever thought about how many times you say “I’m sorry” throughout the day? How about apologizing to a loved one for a hurt you inflicted by saying “Forgive me” instead of “I’m sorry.” Do you feel or see the difference in the use of the words when apologizing? I hope what I have learned regarding forgiveness and apologizing will be instilled with my children so they volunteer their sincerity and love and not feel dutifully, and somewhat pridefully, obligated to apologize and forgive for their wrongs.