The Apologizer and Why I’m Sorry Isn’t Always Enough

Sometimes saying “I’m sorry” just isn’t enough and some action is necessary.

“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
Matthew 5:23-24

Some of my favorite memories of the season of my life when I was a mom of young kids are of our time together in the car. Spoiler alert, even when your kids are older you will still find that the car is one of the best places for deeper conversations.

But, when they were little, we would be running errands around town, going to the library, the park, playdates with friends and there was always a steady stream of talking or singing coming from the back seat.

One day, my daughter decided to inform us of what she thought our ‘superpowers’ might be. But, these weren’t your typical superpowers. She decided it would be funnier to pick things about us that we already do really well and declare those our superpowers. I don’t remember what she selected for my son and my husband but I do remember that she said mine would have to do with being good at doing the laundry. Thanks a lot, kid. Then, she wanted us to return the favor and determine her superpowers.

I told her we would probably deem her ‘The Apologizer’. You see, at this stage of her life, my daughter had absorbed her mother’s master people-pleasing skills and would say “I’m sorry” for every little thing. We actually had to start practicing with her when a situation called for an apology and when it might simply call for an “Okay!”.

You would think having a repentant child would be something to celebrate. But, we recognized that this had the potential to set up very negative patterns in her life. And, most importantly, we were concerned that this would weaken the sincerity of the times when an apology was actually needed.

An Old-Fashioned Notion

In our “sorry, not sorry” culture, sincerely apologizing and taking ownership over our behavior and choices has become something of an old-fashioned notion. We are bombarded by messages on social media that tell us to always be our true selves and never apologize for how that might end up impacting someone else.

There is no lack of healthy self-esteem in people these days. And, when we apologize, we are forced to acknowledge that our true selves might not be quite so esteemable.

My true self is impatient, selfish, greedy, short-tempered, and many, many more words that can really best be summed up by just one all-encompassing word; sinful. As a people-pleaser, I find it much easier to do what my daughter had a tendency to do which is to casually apologize for the things that don’t really matter. But, this tendency can go to the other extreme and become a behavior that is really as self-serving as not apologizing at all. If I’m viewed as someone who is quick to apologize, it certainly makes it a whole lot easier for me to avoid true repentance as I hide under the guise of being self-effacing.

“Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” Matthew 5:37

I don’t know about you but it seems to me that there are just SO. MANY. WORDS everywhere lately. So many impassioned speeches and long-winded rebuttals. But, rarely does this colorful discourse seem to contain any actual substance. As our society continues to redefine the meaning of words, it’s more important than ever that we, as Christ-followers, are very clear in our communication with others. And, this is especially true when it comes to seeking forgiveness for wrongdoing.

The casual, “I’m sorry” doesn’t fully capture the humility of a repentant heart. Especially when those same words have been used in situations where no real harm occurred. Instead, our goal should be true repentance and reconciliation which involves fully acknowledging how we have sinned against another and seeking their forgiveness while also seeking forgiveness from the Lord.

‘The Apologizer’ might be able to say she’s sorry faster than I can do laundry (apparently my only hidden talent) but the real superpower is seeking to become more like Christ who humbled Himself and, while sinless, willingly took the punishment for our sins.

In His Word

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

In Your Life

Do you find it easier to say “I’m sorry” for the small things than you do the more significant ones? If you look to the example of Jesus Christ, you will see that it is through humbling ourselves that we are truly reflecting His life.

Have you addressed any unresolved issues in your relationships that require repentance and reconciliation? Take the time right now to trade your pride for humility and, in doing so, you will grow in maturity of faith as you honor the Lord in this way.

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Join me as we take a journey through the seasons of the year in my book ‘Life in Season’ ​with faith-filled stories, encouraging devotions, beautiful photographs, DIY projects, and recipes. ​Everything you need to slow down, embrace the beauty and the struggle, and celebrate the moments that fill your heart and home. You can find it here.

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You can find Vanessa on her website At The Picket Fence where she passionately shares how to have peace in your heart and peace in your home. Join her also on Facebook and Instagram.