The Power of Saying Sorry

This past week was a hard week.

In much ways, it was a week like any other - same job, same tasks, same length of days. So what made it a hard week? I made some mistakes and had to apologize to several people. And that is hard.

Apologizing is hard because it goes against our grain. Our natural bent is to think we have it all together and to let our pride insulate us from our faults. But when you say “I am sorry” and you acknowledge that you have done something less than stellar, you have to come face to face with the fact that you don’t have everything down perfectly. It can take it out of you emotionally to have to say “sorry.” It can bring disappointment, not just with how you view yourself, but also in how you think others view you. It can bring friends along with it, so that past failures and mistakes are remembered and cause added torment.

But being able to say “I am sorry” is important. Precisely because it is a counter to the sin of pride, we need to be able to do it. The humble person can say “I am sorry” and mean it and not let it destroy them. They can do it because they recognize they are not perfect and that acknowledging that doesn’t make them any less than they were before. And we need this humility, because from it we can recognize that need for a savior. Andrew Murray put it like this: “Humility is the only soil in which the grace root; the lack of humility is the sufficient explanation of every defect and failure. Humility is not so much a grace or virtue along with others; it is the root of all, because it alone takes the right attitude before God, and allows Him as God to do all.”[1] Saying “I'm sorry” helps you develop humility which helps you combat pride and also helps you have the right attitude toward God. And all that from a small phrase.

It is also important because it shows others that you hear and value them. A simple “I am sorry” can go a long way when someone is upset with you. Now this is not an insincere apology. Those wear thin pretty fast and don’t do any good. But a true, contrite heart combined with an apology can go a long way with many people. This is what I had to do a few times last week. They appreciated it. They appreciated me not running from their challenges or concerns. They appreciated me owning that I had caused offense or had messed up. They appreciated it because it showed that I valued them over my pride. Our relationships can be served so well by saying sorry when it is called for.

If we can see the value, shouldn’t we be willing to live with humility and apologize when it is needed? And we need to mean it. This is not like the commercials for the kids board game Sorry!, where a kids makes a player move back and says “Sooorrry” to the camera with an insincere smile. We honestly know we have hurt someone, messed up, made a mistake, or just dropped the ball. We recognize that we could have done better and that those affected deserved better. And we sincerely tell them we're sorry.

[1] Andrew Murray, Humility (Fig books, 2012) 3.