In a world enamored with political correctness and often overwhelmed with litigation, a particular problem arises: How do you go about APOLOGIZING to keep relationships in good standing? When someone says or does something that is offensive to another, a relationship is hindered. The result is that people and groups are divided until the ones offended are somehow satisfied. Typically, an apology is given and then there is a waiting time to see if it is accepted or not. This whole process needs correcting. Even when an apology is accepted and forgiveness is granted, it takes extra effort to bring healing and true reconciliation. In fact, you need to think more about all of this to better understand what I am saying. This article today is an Apologia for the faith I believe and the truth that needs to be learned about Apologizing, Forgiveness and Reconciliation.
Apologizing is a very incomplete, misunderstood and often ineffective practice. This is readily illustrated in our society with weekly and even daily examples. Consider the recent exchange between Comedian David Letterman and Governor Sarah Palin. Think about the many examples in entertainment or athletics, such as with former Virginia Tech star Michael Vick and his dog fighting escapades. What about Virginia Tech President Charles Steger and other VT Administration or Government workers needing to apologize for 04-16-07? Even the current U.S. President Barack Obama feels the need to apologize to people around the world for what he sees as mistakes in America’s practices. Since there is no uniform understanding or agreement as to what constitutes the need for or even what a legitimate apology is, confusion and lack of results or resolution abounds. Relationships often remain divided or less fulfilling that desired.
To get to the heart of this, as with any issue or concept, it is helpful to learn the original meaning of a word. Words certainly change meaning depending upon usage, yet the truth of meanings is still there. To apologize is first, “to give a formal justification.” It is “making a defense” or even “an excuse” for what was said or done. This basic, root definition of the word has been so misunderstood that apologizing has even come to mean “an expression of error or discourtesy accompanied by an expression of regret.” Either way, the problem with “apologizing” still exists: When the one offending responds of their own choice or more often after pressure from others (apologizes), then the one offended responds by deciding whether or not to “accept the apology.” The one offended has to be satisfied with what the one apologizing says or does. This is an ineffective process; it is often not even possible, since the offense is still felt. The offender has to express enough regret or seem sorry enough or even completely change their stated opinion, in order to satisfy the offended and help dismiss criticism. More is needed! Acknowledging an offense is a good first step (even if the motives may be bad). We all should regularly do this in serving others.
Forgiveness is another matter. Forgiveness is when one gives up their offense. It is not apathy, but instead is an act that must be understood as an ongoing promise, else it loses all meaning. Forgiveness is the better and the biblical way. I do not have room to elaborate here, so you may wish to look over my 04-28-09 Blog, “LEARN To Forgive!” The best and even necessary end when there is apologizing and even forgiveness is for there to also be Reconciliation. That takes a conscious effort—to do things to continue and grow in the relationship, despite past offenses or disagreements.
The believer in Jesus Christ has the best understanding available in the Bible and should be modeling this in his or her life! Jesus Christ offers forgiveness and demands that His followers, who have found true forgiveness in Him, be willing to forgive others and be sensitive enough to see when they need to ask forgiveness for their own actions. The more excellent way of loving (see 1 Corinthians 12:31ff), to which all Christians are called, is that of reconciliation (see 2 Corinthians 4 and 5 [esp. 5:18]).