Benjamin Franklin once said, “Never ruin an apology with an excuse.” The great theologian John Wayne said, “Never apologize, mister. It’s a sign of weakness.” But is it, really?
Apparently, after John Lennon made his unfortunate statement about Christianity (“Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I’m right and I will be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now . . .”), he followed it up later by saying, ““I wasn’t saying whatever they’re saying I was saying. I’m sorry I said it really. I never meant it to be a lousy anti-religious thing. I apologize if that will make you happy. I still don’t know quite what I’ve done. I’ve tried to tell you what I did do but if you want me to apologize, if that will make you happy, then OK, I’m sorry.”
There’s a lot of confusion about apologizing, don’t you think? Someone named Mark Matthews said, “Apologizing does not always mean you’re wrong and the other person is right. It just means you value your relationship more than your ego.” I don’t know — whenever I apologize it usually means I’m admitting I was wrong in my words or my actions or my attitude.
This is the ninth habit I’m working on — the necessity of the practice of apologizing. It’s always painful for me. I do want to value a relationship more than my ego. Asking forgiveness puts one in a vulnerable position in which the other person might well choose not to forgive.
Jesus says in Matthew 5: 23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.” How important is apologizing? Getting reconciled with another brother or sister? Admitting one’s offense and trying to straighten things out? Important enough to interrupt one’s worship of the living God! Does a habit get more important than that?
May I suggest this includes also apologizing to those who are not yet Jesus-followers? The more friendships we have with those not yet in God’s family means the more occasions we will have to disappoint them, hurt them, offend them. And those become opportunities to admit our wrongs, to ask for their forgiveness, and to respond in a godly way (even if they choose not to forgive). Allow the chinks in your Christian armor to show. You are not yet perfect and neither am I. So, apologize already! (to be continued)