Some people would rather run a barefoot marathon on broken glass than say these words.
For those with similar mileage as myself, you might remember Fonzi from ”Happy Days” and his humorous endeavors into apologizing. It was as if he were being forced to eat chocolate covered ants dipped in peanut butter.
For others, “I’m sorry” rolls off the tongue like butter off a hot corncob. And it tastes just as good to the utterer because the words pacify a guilty conscience—”There. I said it.”
My road rage has almost completely evaporated since I started using Progressive’s Snapshot in my car (see My Under-the-Dashboard Driver). And the extra patience I’ve gained has spilled over into other areas of life. But I still have my moments. And since it’s true that we tend to hurt those closest to us the most, my kids sometimes bear the brunt of my impatience.
Since I’m a co-dependent, saying “I’m sorry” is as second nature as breathing. If someone accidently whacked me across the head in Walmart, the first words outa my mouth (after a modified explicative, perhaps) would be, “Are you alright? Did you hurt your hand? Let’s get some ice for you. I’m so sorry I got in the way.”
Yes, it’s pathetic, but there you go.
Saying I’m sorry to my kids is easy, too. I mess up all the time so I get plenty of opportunities to practice apologizing. What’s hard is following up on those easily stated words.
When you say “I’m sorry”, the expected follow-up is to not do it again, to not keep rubbing salt into the wound, or repeatedly rip off the scab. But the follow-up is about as painful and difficult as running that barefooted marathon—each step of the way you feel your feet getting sliced to ribbons because that follow-up involves change.
When Paul wrote his second letter to the Corinthians, he describes what godly sorrow or repentance produces in us: “what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourself, what indignation [at what we’d done], what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.”
Those responses are a lot more difficult to muster up than a pat “I’m sorry.” Words truly are cheap, unless they are followed-up with the desire and the action of change.
So the next time I start in on my kids, and want to quickly apologize, I need to cram a tablespoon of Jiff in my mouth to give myself a few extra seconds to ponder exactly what that “I’m sorry” will cost me, i.e., if I’m willing to change.
If I can’t say I’m sorry and mean it, I’m a liar, and I’m better off keeping the spoon stuck in my mouth.
Please comment and feel free to share the last time you followed up with your “I’m sorry” and changed or didn’t change. How did it affect your relationships?