One sunny afternoon during the fall of 4th grade, I completely lost track of the afternoon. I was engrossed in some project at work and left too late to get through traffic and make it to after school pick up on time. Thank the Lord for the gift of technology! I’ll just call the school, let them know I was running late, and ask them to convey the message to my kiddo. Bam! Momming win…
Well, all of that happened just as I had hoped, and when I arrived at our usual pick up spot, there was no kiddo waiting for me. In the distance, I see a terrified, sobbing little person running toward my car. I missed the mark. I betrayed trust and confidence that I would be reliable, dependable, and on time. “A little late” wasn’t specific enough, and when all the other kids were picked up and only mine remained, panic ensued.
I. Felt. Terrible.
I sincerely hope that you have not had a similar experience, but I suspect you have. Maybe not the exact same situation, but we’ve all missed the mark – we’ve all sinned. It’s part of being human. So, when our iniquities impact those around us, and we impact trust in a relationship, what do we do?
James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will exalt you.” Apologizing humbles us by reminding us that we are not perfect and we need forgiveness from God and from other people.
When we know we have wronged God or someone else, God expects us to make it right. We make things right with God by repenting of that sin, confessing it to Him, and receiving His forgiveness (1 John 1:9). We make things right with others by apologizing—admitting our wrong, asking for forgiveness, and offering to make restitution (see the example of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:8). When we have wronged someone else, we should do whatever we can to make it right.
Here are a few practical application tips to put the rubber to the road when it’s time to apologize. Remember, being faithful in making things right will both grow your intimacy with the Lord and with your people:
- Own it. Admit when you mess up. Keep it simple and straight forward. Feeling a lump in your throat? That’s your pride. Swallow it. Be humble and honest. When admitting your error, DO NOT qualify your behavior with a list of the reasons you really aren’t wrong or shift the blame to someone else. Only you are in control of your words and deeds.
- Apologize. “Your feelings are hurt (or a statement that reflects the impact of your mess up) because I ____, I’m sorry.” When you apologize, make eye contact, be genuine, and specific.
- Ask for forgiveness, and if it is granted, show gratitude.
- Offer to do something to make the situation right. If that isn’t possible, like in my late pick up scenario, share how you will avoid making the same mistake in the future.
- If it seems appropriate, and you can identify that this is a sin pattern, consider giving the other person permission to call you on it in the future because you want to grow.
An example of this for the late pick up scenario:
Lots of hugs to console the scared kiddo> I left work too late today. I’m so sorry that you were the last one waiting to be picked up. You were scared that you were alone and you didn’t know where I was because I was so late getting here today. I’m SO sorry. <More hugs> Can you forgive me? Thank you. I don’t want this to happen again, so I am going to set a timer on my phone to go off when I am at work so I make sure I leave in plenty of time to pick you up, and IF something happens that I will ever be this late again, I will ask that you wait for me in the office so you aren’t by yourself. Ok?
Mother-child intimacy deepened. Trust repaired. Modeling of humility, apology, and reconciliation. Thank you Jesus!
These principles can be used any time you have messed up, with God and anyone in your life. You will find that the sooner you apologize the better and easier it will be for everyone involved. If you feel like you need some guidance or practice; Or you’ve been in a sin pattern for a while without trying to right your wrong and you need support in making a change, schedule an appointment! We would be honored to walk with you as you practice glorifying the Lord with your words and actions.
The Redeemed Team