Remember when we were kids and we had done something mean to someone else, and our parents caught us? Usually we were grabbed by the ear and placed squarely in front of the offended child.
“Tell them you are sorry.”
Of course our mothers understood what our look was communicating immediately, and just as quickly they returned a look that WE understood immediately.
With a gulp, and a kick at the dust, we turned back and muttered “sorry.”
It’s probably safe to say that 98% of the time we weren’t sorry at all.
Well, probably sorry we got caught, but that was about it.
I’ve thought about this childhood experience as I’ve witnessed some adults offer apologies.
I’m so sorry, BUT I was just so angry at what had happened; or I’m so sorry, BUT I have not been getting enough sleep lately; or I’m so sorry, BUT you know that you aren’t supposed to do that; or I’m so sorry, BUT can’t you see that I’m right about this; or I’m so sorry, BUT …
You know, we’ve all had our own BUT’s.
No really, think about it.
It’s like our mother glaring at us and we know we’d better speak up fast, but we aren’t sorry for their pain.
We are sorry for our own discomfort. Our guilt.
For some reason we feel we need the person we have wronged to somehow relieve us of our own burden; you know, make us feel like we were actually right. We want them to see there was a very good reason we did what we did, we seek the rationalization that makes us still morally superior, we hope everyone can understand the excuse that they deserved what they got.
I wonder if it boils down to the fact that we are looking for them to reassure us that we didn’t act quite as rotten as we really acted; and in turn that makes it a little easier to tell ourselves we weren’t quite as rotten as we actually know we were.
Kind of like apologizing not because we did something rotten, but because we feel rotten about doing something rotten.
And we don’t want to feel rotten anymore.
In our crazy little Batty family we’ve learned to laugh at each other when one of us does this. Even when we manage to verbally stop at “I’m really sorry…” but leave that huge pregnant pause , we can all feel the implied rest of the sentence. I’m the worst at this because in my little world, I really am right the vast majority of the time. Ahh, the magic of being me I guess.
At any rate, we have started to call these the big hairy BUT in the room that was communicated even though not spoken.
It’s amazing how gentle laughter can chasten and love at the same time. It’s a chance to step back, and refocus on the larger picture.
Refocus from me wanting someone else to help me feel better about me to me seeing that I sincerely want to help someone else feel better about them.
It only takes three simple words: I’m really sorry.
No BUT, no excuse, no rationalization, no defense.
That is a hard one to swallow, I know. The smooth liquid of humility keeps us from choking on it.
Because, right then and there does it really matter why we did it? Sure, it does to us so that we can fix it, change ourselves, not repeat the rotten actions.
But it really doesn’t matter to those we hurt, not in that moment.
What matters is that they have been hurt.
And we are truly sorry for their pain.
Our Heavenly Parents aren’t going to grab us by the ear and drag us over to face what we have done; rather, They allow us to choose the journey on our own.
And then They grant us a glimpse at just how They see the one we have hurt – someone who is trying just as hard as we are.
We don’t even need to turn around to know exactly the look They are giving us. It’s that peaceful chastening with love.
Love for them.
Love for us.
The lesson is that by trying to first help solve another’s hurt, we will have a better place to start on resolving our own.
I kind of think this can only really happen when we are genuinely sorry.
Sorry for their pain more than our own.
You know, I’m just really sorry that you’ve been hurt.
No but’s about it.