He dreamed of a glunk with a horrible face
And thought he’d better hide someplace.
He tried to hide between the sheets
And found an ogre with two left feet.
He tried to hide in the dresser drawer
And heard a hungry tiger roar.
He tried to hide beneath the bed
And found a body without a head.
He tried to hide behind the door
And heard a sleeping monster snore.
He tried to hide down in the basement
And found a dragon to his amazement.
He tried to hide beneath the stair
And found a mummy grinnin’ there.
He tried to hide behind the drapes
And found a dozen hairy apes.
He tried to hide behind a dresser
And found a murderin’ mad professor.
He tried to hide in a pile of clothes
And found a witch with a warty nose.
He tried to hide under the sink
And found a vampire takin’ a drink.
He tried to hide in the garbage pail
And found a werewolf sharpenin’ his nails.
So he went back to bed, that’s what he did,
And he dreamed of tomorrow,
And there he hid.
– “He Tried To Hide” by Shel Silverstein
We all know the fear of waking from a terrifying nightmare as a child. In the dead of night, during a deep sleep, all the monsters, haunts, spooks, ghouls, and glunks alike came out to play with your mind. If you were like me, you probably went through all the motions of pulling your covers up over your head (only to realize you couldn’t breathe and had to venture back out), turning your lamp on (only to find eerie shadows dancing on the wall), tossing, turning, praying, crying, and trying to think of anything but scary things! Yet, like in the poem, everywhere you turned, more frightening prospects kept popping up, until you eventually got so sleepy that you let sleep overtake you and bring you safely over to the morning light. Once you awoke you probably only faintly remembered the fear of hours ago, because there is something healing about the light of a new day that tends to wipe away the glunks and ghouls of yesterday.
In like manner, wrongs are a lot like glunks and ghouls. When a Christian sins against someone, whether in word or deed, it haunts them. Everywhere they turn, they are confronted with the wrong until they rectify it. They can turn from it, hide from it, try to forget about it, try to think about something else, try to shed a little artificial light on the issue…but when all is said and done, the only thing that will bring peace and healing is “the true light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1:9). The physical light of day can not wipe away sins like it seems to wipe away childish fears. However, the spiritual light of Jesus Christ works through our repentance and rectification to wipe away our wrongs.
Are you guilty of speaking out of turn to your husband? Have you been too harsh towards your son or daughter? Did you ever roll your eyes at your father or mother? How about spilled a friend’s secret? Taken an attitude with the waiter? Given that overbearing family member a piece of your mind? Honked rudely at the car in front of you? Yelled when you should have held your peace? Held your ground when you should have budged? Talked when you should have listened? Left when you should have stayed?
In all truth, who hasn’t been guilty of one or more of these shameful actions? Each of us can be so wicked when we lose sight of our Lord and His call for us to be holy people. It’s true that we all fail at times, but here’s the most important thing: do we make it right? Do we sweep it under the rug like yesterday’s nightmare, or do we do all in our power to make amends with the person we have wronged? Do we avoid, or do we face our fears and apologize?
Sometimes it seems that apologizing is a lost art. Rather than apologize, it’s easier to hide away (and hope the other person forgets about it), or even make excuses for our bad behavior! It’s not easy to humble ourselves and admit we messed up – not even to ourselves, but especially not to someone else. We’d rather pull the proverbial “cover” over our heads and hide from the “monster” that dealing with a confrontational situation appears to be.
While monsters aren’t a reality of life, confrontation is. Apologizing when we’ve sinned against someone isn’t easy, but it doesn’t have to be terrifying. Today we are going to learn three vital tips in giving An Appropriate Apology. Once you implement these three steps into your life, you will be able to face your fears, strengthen your relationships, and rest in the true healing light of tomorrow…
#1. Be Swift
An appropriate apology is swift. A truly apologetic person will not put off until tomorrow what they should do today.
Owe someone an apology? No more hiding, no more procrastinating, no more waiting for that perfect moment that never comes! Delayed apologies encourage bitterness to grow within the other party, and pride to grow within us. Delayed apologies strain fellowship.
Amos 3:3 poses this question: Can two walk together except they be agreed?
One aspect of “agreeing” is to be in fellowship one with another. When one person withholds an apology that another is due, they hinder this fellowship. We are commanded in Hebrews 3:13 to “exhort one another daily, while it is called today“. Can you hear the urgency in the words? The Hebrews writer is saying, “there’s no time like the present! No time to fool around, today is the day for unity!” How can we accomplish this when we’re not even getting along?
Not only do we lose fellowship one with another when we withhold apologies, but we lose fellowship with God. Jesus paints this picture very pointedly in Matthew 5:21-24. I encourage you to read it for yourself, but I will also give a brief recap of His teaching here:
Under the Old Covenant, we learned the commandment, “thou shalt not kill”…but Jesus takes it a step further. If we are getting ticked at our brother or sister in Christ (this can include our own household) without a good reason, watch out – we just may be in hot water with the Lord. Perhaps we lose our cool and call them worthless…this won’t be overlooked on judgment day. Maybe we even tell them they’re a fool…this kind of behavior is worthy of Hell. We shouldn’t think we can delay an apology and keep on going on with life, worshipping the Lord, assembling with the church, etc. None of this is worth a dime if we don’t get our act in gear and go make it right with the other person first. Our worship is vain until we give an appropriate apology.
Many take Matthew 5:21-24 and use it to teach that it is a sin to say the word “fool”. While it is true that Christians should have clean speech, this narrow scope is limiting the true spirit of the passage. Don’t miss the overlying principles at hand…love one another, control your temper, don’t speak out of turn, and when you do fail…apologize swiftly and return into fellowship with God and your brother.
Apologize quickly when you wrong someone, because ‘I’m sorry’ has no value in the grave. – Lakesha Ruise
#2. Be Sympathetic
An appropriate apology is sympathetic. A truly apologetic person will have compassion for the person they have wronged.
One of our founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, once said:
Never ruin an apology with an excuse.
How right he was! There’s little worse than receiving an apology where the one apologizing justifies the hurt they caused. “I’m sorry, but…” This sort of apology reeks of pride and certainly doesn’t seem repentant whatsoever. An apology such as this can even be the springboard for further disagreement! When we apologize, we don’t want to come across as a know-it-all. We want to be genuine, understanding, and humble.
To him that is afflicted pity should be shewed from his friend. – Job 6:14a
Usually when we think of “affliction” we think of physical pain, yet we should also show pity (sympathy) to those who have an affliction of the heart or emotions. How much more so if we were the cause of that affliction?! This stands true even if we think the other person is overreacting, or even if we didn’t mean to make them upset. It is not our responsibility to determine whether or not their hurt is valid, but it is our responsibility to do our part to alleviate any hurt we have caused.
Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous… – 1 Peter 3:8
When you apologize, you have to remember that it isn’t all about you. It’s not about making yourself look good, or proving a point. It’s an act of humility…it’s showing the other person that you care more about the relationship you share than you care about “having the last word”. It’s acknowledging that you messed up, and you want a fresh start. It’s saying, “I can’t turn back time, but I can tend your wounds. Show me where it hurts so I can bandage up the painful spots I inflicted.” Try to see the situation through the other person’s eyes. Sympathy goes a long way in patching up problems.
A stiff apology is a second insult…the injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed because he has been hurt. – Gilbert K. Chesterton
#3. Be Sincere
An appropriate apology is sincere. A truly apologetic person speaks the truth…not just what others want to hear.
Sincerity may seem to be the most obvious trait of an apology, but it’s definitely not the most common. Too many times apologies are made with the wrong intentions. Maybe an apology is expected, or it just seems like the right thing to do. Maybe we apologize because we want to put the issue behind us without resolving it in our heart. Maybe we want the other person to stop pointing fingers, so we give in and tell them what they want to hear. Maybe we want to look good to others, or maybe we even want to pull the wool over someone’s eyes so that we can prepare for round two of stabbing them in the back. Whatever the case may be, an apology that is not sincere is nothing short of a lie. Better to not apologize at all than to fake an apology…
Whose hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be shewed before the whole congregation. Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him. A lying tongue hateth those that are afflicted by it; and a flattering mouth worketh ruin. – Proverbs 26:26-28
If we try to cover wrong intentions with a fake apology, the outcome does not look good for us. We might think we’re clever and in control of the situation when we “cover our hatred with deceit”. However, “nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest” (Luke 8:17a). In short, you can’t be a fraud with God. If you can’t muster up any sincere feelings of regret over wronging someone…pray! Ask the Lord to soften your heart and convict you so that you can make things right in a truthful manner. First, apologize in your heart…then go find the person you’ve wronged as soon as possible and make amends.
There’s a world of difference between merely saying sorry, and being sorry. When giving an apology, we may need to take a little time beforehand to test our sincerity. We need to ask ourselves just what it is that we’re sorry about. “Have I sinned?”…”Have I hurt someone’s feelings?”…”Have I caused a misunderstanding?”…what exactly is the problem at hand? If we can’t pin down exactly why we’re apologizing, we have no business apologizing until we figure it out. Generic apologies lack sincerity. Remember to always say what you mean, and mean what you say…and above all, know that actions speak louder than words. Don’t say it if you can’t show it.
But sorry is the Kool-Aid of human emotions. True sorrow is as rare as true love. – Stephen King
We all have to say we’re sorry at some point in time. We fail…we let our emotions get out of control, we hurt each other, we say things we shouldn’t say, and we do things we shouldn’t do. We are out of line more times than we care to admit, and we must keep humbling ourselves and asking for forgiveness again and again. We shouldn’t be afraid of saying we’re sorry. We shouldn’t run from it. We shouldn’t blow it off. . However, we must all remember that at the end of the day, “sorry” is just another word…easily said and easily forgotten. To test whether our apology is appropriate, we must always ask ourselves these three questions…
- Is my apology swift?
- Is my apology sympathetic?
- Is my apology sincere?
It is then that you will know that you have an appropriate apology; an apology that can open the curtains to a brand new day, to let in the healing light of tomorrow.
For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin. – Psalm 38:18
For God’s Glory,
Chelsea Bolks is a church of Christ minister’s wife, and the home educating mother of two children. She and her family currently reside in Northwest Iowa.