Saying Sorry is not for Wimps

Many readers of this blog probably sighed with relief when they heard that Britain’s state-owned woodlands are not to be sold off to the private sector; but I wonder what they made of the curious political tit-for-tat that followed the Environment Secretary’s announcement. I thought myself that Caroline Spelman handled a difficult situation with dignity, even graciousness, and was particularly struck by the absence of fudge in the way she began her announcement, ‘I would first like to say that I take full responsibility for the situation that brings me before the House today.’ That is not what, sadly, we have become accustomed to hearing from some of our M.P.s. Even more interesting, though, was the way in which she countered an accusation that she had been ‘humiliated’. Whatever her private feelings on the matter, what she said was straight and to the point: ‘I’m sorry . . . One of the things we teach our children to do is say sorry. It is not a humiliation; it is my choice.’

Why do we think that admitting one is wrong and saying sorry is humiliating? Some of the most terrible miscarriages of justice in history, some of the most dreadful wars, owe their origins to someone’s inability to climb down and say sorry. We all know the kind of apology which is no apology at all and merely provides the one ‘apologizing’ with an opportunity to run through all the resentments that led to the explosive situation in the first place. But a genuine apology, made simply and humbly, is utterly disarming. Few have the courage to attempt that, and I have to say, at the risk of annoying my male readers, that women tend to manage it better than men. Perhaps because we cannot physically exert our will on another, perhaps because we are better at reading emotions than many men, we don’t find it necessary to maintain our position in the face of the evidence. We can concede without feeling defeated.

Jesus of Nazareth was one man who knew how to handle an apology. On Fridays our thoughts turn naturally to his Passion and death on the Cross. I am trembling on the edge of heresy when I say this, but I think his death is not only the occasion when man said sorry to God for all the sin committed by humankind, I think it is also the occasion when God said sorry to us and bowed his head before his creature, not because God had ever done us wrong but because the way in which an apology is accepted matters, too. Saying sorry is not for wimps but for the brave of heart and truly loving.


5 thoughts on “Saying Sorry is not for Wimps”

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Saying Sorry is not for Wimps « iBenedictines --
  2. I couldn’t agree more.

    For some people, ‘sorry’ really is the hardest word (to quote some song or other…I think).

    For me, it seems like part of a larger problem of people not wanting to take responsibility for their own actions.

    We are all human, striving towards perfection…..but not quite there yet.

  3. Hi Digitalnun,

    I was wondering if you could clarify your final paragraph a bit more. In what way do you think ‘we’ say sorry to God at Calvary? And how do you mean when you say God says sorry to us?

    At Calvary we crucify our Lord. There is no moment, and I dare say, no theology to point to us saying sorry to Christ. The New Testament doesn’t indicate many moments of ‘sorry’ / ‘apologising’ to God, than, perhaps the story of the Prodigal Son..

    Thank you for taking the time to read this and I look forward to your response.

    In Mary,

  4. Cheryl, I’ll try, but I can see from what you wrote that I did not really make myself clear first time and may now make things hazier still. Most Christians, even those who reject the Atonement Theory, would accept St Paul’s view that “God in Christ was reconciling the world to himself”, that Christ on the Cross bore the sins of all and by his death made reparation for them to the Father (this can be expressed in many different ways but essentially it means that Christ, as both God and man, said sorry to the Father for human sin and obtained forgiveness for us all). We therefore say sorry to God in Christ. My next point was more poetic than literal. The bowing of Christ’s head on the Cross, when he yielded up his spirit to the Father in perfect obedience to his will, was also the moment when God in Christ bowed his head before us his creatures. What I was trying to say was, when Christ made the perfect apology to the Father, God accepted it most graciously, just as, on the human level, the way in which an apology is accepted matters.

    • Hi again,
      Thanks for your explanation – I understand fully now what you were getting at! For a moment there I thought my 5 years of Theology study had been keeping something from me! 🙂

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