We all find saying sorry hard…
Federal politician Ms Bronwyn Bishop has recently been in the news for using taxpayers’ money to fund a helicopter trip to attend a party fundraising function.
Politicians, media and many ordinary people have had their say on whether this action was right or wrong. After initially defending her right to charter the flight and refusing to resign from her position of Speaker in the House of Representatives, Ms Bishop finally apologised for “letting the Australian people down”, offered to repay the money with penalty interest and tendered her resignation.
When asked by a journalist, “If you believe you did nothing wrong … why do you want to repay the money?” She responded, “… Because it was too much money, it just looked wrong. Although it’s within the rules, it just doesn’t look right and therefore I’m apologising and I’m repaying the money.”
It is impossible to truly apologise and make a confession if you don’t actually believe that you did anything wrong.
Whilst Ms Bishop’s offer to repay is commendable, and she has now also resigned from the public office of Speaker, people are struggling to accept Ms Bishop’s apology is genuine, because her words, however heartfelt, really only reflect her sorrow for “letting the public down whilst acting within the rules”.
The closest that Ms Bishop came to a confession of wrongdoing was an acknowledgement that she had made an “error of judgement”. This phrase admits she made an incorrect decision, but does not indicate a wholehearted acceptance that she made an intentionally selfish or morally wrong choice.
Only when we can acknowledge and accept our selfish attitudes, words or behaviour are we are then able to make a genuine apology.
Whilst we can never determine how an apology will be received by someone we have wronged, we see throughout the Bible the benefits of seeking to rebuild a relationship which has been damaged by our wrong and selfish attitudes and behaviour. (See the confession made by Joseph’s brothers to Joseph in Genesis 50:15-18, see also James 5:13-16 and 1 John 1:9)
Regardless of how our apology and confession is received by those we have wronged, we know that when we confess our sins to God, because of the price paid by Him on our behalf by the death of Jesus on the cross at Calvary, justice has been served, our wrongs are fully paid for and we are completely forgiven.
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Col 1:13-14
A good, complete and effective apology must:
- include a confession that something wrong was thought, said or done without any excuse or defence;
- be expressed with humility, showing a willingness for justice to take place with no expectation for mercy, but seeking relational forgiveness from those wronged.
If we are truly repentant, the 7A’s of Confession developed by Ken Sande in The Peacemaker help us communicate an apology well and completely to those we have wronged. They are:
- A ddress everyone involved (all those affected)
- A void if, but and maybe (don’t try to excuse your wrongs!)
- A dmit specifically (both attitudes and actions)
- A cknowledge the hurt (express sorrow for hurting someone)
- A ccept the consequences (such as making restitution or maybe a loss of trust for a time)
- A lter your behaviour (change your attitudes and actions.)
- A sk for forgiveness (and allow time for them to consider their response)
Whilst not every apology needs all of these elements, the more important ones typically do. When we include all these A’s in our apology, we show how truly sorry we are for our attitude and behaviour and how we are committed to do all we can to make it right. Sometimes the response will be immediate forgiveness, at other times it will be forgiveness in time, and sometimes a person may struggle to forgive. But in all cases, giving a heartfelt apology remains the right thing to do.
Is there someone that you have wronged that God is calling you to apologise and confess to? You never know how God will bless that act of courage and obedience to him…