“I’m sorry. Would you please forgive me?”
I said those words this week. They were humbling. And they were freeing.
If you knew the entirety of the situation, some of you would undoubtedly say “it’s about time.” Others might ask why? Why you? Why now? Honestly, it’s taken me quite awhile to arrive here. I fought the idea that I had indiscretion to own. Let’s face it, it’s hard to say I’m sorry (just ask Peter Cetera).
When we have a disagreement with someone – a blowout, a fight, a separation – we instinctively begin to fashion a narrative. It doesn’t matter if you failed freshman English, in those moments you become a Pulitzer prize winner. Your wounds, pride, and insecurities team up to co-write your novel. And it’s not completely fiction. There’s plenty of truth in those pages (which are then nicely bound and wrapped in a hard cover of self-protection).
We can nurse these stories for years. We tell them to ourselves over and over again, developing the characters and the dialog, reliving each encounter, somehow always emerging as the heroic protagonist. We find our justification in these stories. We find our dignity in these stories. We find our righteousness in these stories.
And it was that revelation that brought sobriety to my piety.
Before Jesus can save us with His limitless grace, He has to crush us with God’s unattainable holiness.
“You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder.”
–Matthew 5:21 MSG
You see, in my mind I had done the right thing. There was nothing to feel bad about, certainly nothing to apologize for. I had danced the dance. Maneuvered and responded in a completely defensible manner. My actions were pure.
But according to Jesus, my heart was not.
In my most honest moments of self-storytelling, I knew those justifiable actions were really nothing more than a great performance. In my heart, I was conniving. In my heart, I had wished ill-will. In my heart, I was manipulating. In my heart, I was protecting my interests. In my heart, I was a murderer.
I needed forgiveness. I needed a Savior.
You can’t own other people’s stuff, that’s not what this about. But I don’t care if the blame is 50-50, 80-20, or 99-1, you can certainly own yours. So let me give you some good news:
The Gospel frees you from the tyranny of having to be right. Your righteousness was never self-made anyway. You’re not the hero of the story!
Is there a grudge you’ve been holding? A old wound you’ve been nursing? A past action you’ve been justifying? The courage to admit you’re broken, fallible, and weak is actually quite empowering. And when you can find the courage to go first, you just might release the redemptive power of the Gospel in someone else’s life, too.
Is it time to say I’m sorry?