A Better Way to Say Sorry

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A young teacher attending a teacher’s conference listened to the guest speaker rant about how no one was teaching children how to apologize properly these days. Perking up her ears she wrote down the following bullet points:

I’m sorry for…
This is wrong because…
In the future I will…
Will you forgive me?

It seemed a little tedious but the more she considered the idea, the more it became clear that each component was necessary. Going back to the classroom, she labeled a poster ‘How to Say Sorry.” That afternoon she talked with the children about the importance of apologizing properly. They had a good time role playing using bratty voices and body language (crossed arms and rolled eyes, etc.) all things that showed insincerity. The teacher shared with them that apologies are pointless and meaningless if people didn’t feel like the offender meant it and if the offender didn’t actually plan to change in the future. Then, going over to the poster, she outlined the following:

1. I’m sorry for…Be specific. Show that you understand why the person is upset.
2. This is wrong because… This is important because until you understand what was wrong or how it hurt someone, it’s unlikely you’ll change.
3. In the future, I will… Use positive language, tell them what you WILL do, not what you won’t do.
4. Will you forgive me?…This is important to try and restore your friendship. Now, there is no rule that the other person has to forgive you. That is up to the other person, but at least ask for it.

Asking for forgiveness puts the offender in an uncomfortable and vulnerable place of humility. However, this seemingly obvious yet widely underused phrase (Will you forgive me?) is very, very powerful for both offender and offended. It is the key to reconciliation. Our readings today focus on the generosity of God’s forgiveness. We each must pray for the humility of spirit to ask for forgiveness in order to receive it. Our God’s love is so great that we will be forgiven! Let us pray for the grace to be as loving and forgiving to one another as God is to us.

Submitted by Sue McDonald

excerpt from ‘A Better Way to Say Sorry’