Given the news in the last 24 hours about one politician’s indecent language (and his subsequent “apology”), it seems like a good time to review the human tendency to defend ourselves and shift blame. We’ve been doing this since Adam and Eve blamed others for their fall. But rather than shrug our shoulders or think we are better then politicians, let’s use this opportunity to remember what constitutes a good apology. Consider reading some of these previous posts and discussing with your friends. Ask yourselves where you need to grow:
Tag Archives: apology
Ever had someone hurt you, apologize, but you still felt like something was missing? Did you think it was your problem because you couldn’t forgive? Is it possible that their apology didn’t go far enough? Have you had a chance to hear about Harold Camping’s recent apology for picking dates in 2011 for the rapture to take place? The good news is that he admits what he did was a sin and that he will no longer seek to discover the date when Jesus returns. Read his apology on the Family Radio website.
But there are a few problems with his apology. I mean…problems beyond his attempt to focus more on the good his sin did for the kingdom of God than on actually apologizing for the actual sin. His apology amounts to something akin to, “I’m sorry I was reckless and crashed your car but I got out unscathed and people heard me thank God for surviving it so it’s all good.”
What is missing? Acknowledgement of hurt, willingness to restore
Read his apology again. You will see he fails to repent directly to those he hurt most–the ones who gave sacrificially to fund his insanity. He never names the specific sins committed nor the hurts he caused. Further, and this is most telling, he makes no offer to restore victims of his offenses. If he acknowledges he misled people and in doing so received benefit from his sin, might he not desire to follow the path of Zaccheus? To give back what he took (that would be a start) and even give back more?
He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. Eph 4:28
Repentance is then shown not just in stopping bad behavior but replacing it with behaviors that are righteous and good.
What is restorative justice?
This week I will be in Tennessee speaking on the relationship between repentance and restorative justice. Restorative justice (RJ) is the idea that victims, offenders, and community ought to be in dialogue together to (a) understand the impact of offenses, (b) determine together ways to restore both victim and offender, and (c) to allow the community to have a say in the matter. It doesn’t oppose the rule of law but believes that the judicial approach is not always the best approach and tends to focus on punishment to the exclusion of restoration. RJ does not work unless victims are interested in it and offenders are remorseful. But, in those cases where there may be interest and some remorse, it may allow offenders the opportunity to get the depth of the pain they caused and offer them opportunities to “restore what the locusts have eaten.” (Joel 2:25)
Restoring vs. penance?
If you are like me you may be tempted to swing between to polar opposites when you are confronted with your own offenses: defensiveness or penance. Sometimes we want our apology to be the last word. We want to be forgiven and our offense treated as if it never happened. Other times we want to grovel and do penance so that the offended party will think better of us. During this season of lent, let us be aware of our offenses and the necessary sacrifice to cleanse us. But let us also be willing to seek the betterment of those we harm “with joy.”
Apologies are pretty simple things: ownership of responsibility without defense and willingness to make things right. Sadly, we have a hard time carrying out such a simple transaction because we invest in self-protection more than loving others.
For you, what do you most look for in an apology?
Will Harold Camping apologize for his antics? What would you like him to say if he did?
One of the hardest things for us to do is to make a clear, direct, no-blinking apology when we have erred. Consider how many times you’ve heard such an apology, especially if the error was intentional (e.g., lying, deception, stealing, and other trust-breaking activities). Mistakes (the real ones) are quite easy to apologize for. For example, I broke the arm of one of my son’s friend by accident. I felt terrible and apologized many times over. I made no excuses for it.
Funny thing: the more guilt we actually own for an error, the less likely we will be willing to own it. We’ve all heard and even made some of these “apologies.” Mistakes were made, I did but you did worse, I’m sorry IF I might have hurt you, I was tired…
So, here’s the apology I’d like Camping to make:
I was wrong to try to guess the date of the return of Christ because the Bible clearly states that “no man knoweth the day or the hour.” Not only did I choose to ignore that verse but I also abandoned the plain teaching of Scripture and the common interpretations of passages down through the ages. Instead, I sought to convince people that I was someone smarter than everyone else. It is not surprising I rejected the good teachings of others since, in my arrogance, I left the church back in the 80s. While some might not know the teaching of the bible, I do. Failing to submit myself to a local community is forbidden by the Scriptures. A teacher is held to a higher standard and so I am responsible for encouraging foolish decisions of others who sit under me. I also apologize for encouraging cynicism and disbelief in the Bible all because I taught that there is a secret code in the Bible. In light of God’s mercy to me I ask for your forgiveness. As a sign of my repentance I promise to cease preaching and teaching. I promise to submit myself to those who can disciple me. Further, I will sell my assets and search to pay back all those who listened to me and spent their hard-earned monies to support my delusions.
Likely, however, he will do what most of us do with our apologies: excuse, blameshift, try to use other lies to make ourselves seem like truth-tellers or victims, etc.
Interested in reading other posts on the art and act of apology? See my first one here. You can also search the word “apology” in the search engine to the right of this post. There you will find several other posts on the topic, especially why it is so hard for us to apologize.