Saturday, January 31, 2009
I'd like to discuss the matter of repentance.Some believe repentance is saying "I'm sorry". We heard that in the old 1970's movie, Love Story, that love is a place where we never have to say "I'm sorry". In one respect I understand the sentiment. If we love someone there ought to be some serious tolerance or grace toward them and vise versa. But, I can't imagine when it's ever inappropriate to apologize, if we have been abusive with or insensitive toward another person.
I find myself saying "I'm sorry" much more than I like. The reason is not that I don't like to apologize - on the contrary, I find the act to be exhilarating and cleansing, but I hate the fact that I can say things - usually in an attempt to be clever- are taken wrong or that I might put another person in a position of feeling vulnerable, humiliated or even unsafe.
Just recently I was less gracious than I want to be with three individuals, at church, of all places. While my comments were completely harmless, in trying to be clever or sound intelligent, I embarrassed myself and needed to apologize to three people before lunch. My vows and values to be gracious in all encounters didn't last very long that day.
Some would say I just had a bad morning, but think I failed the repentance test.
When we fail to make the changes that we desire in our behavior, we exist in what I call the Repentance Gap. That's the place between our regrets, remorse or apologies and the next opportunity to repeat an offense. If we don't repeat, we have repented.
Repentance is not just apologizing or promising better behavior. Those who are abusive by nature-physically, verbally or emotionally- always apologize and make promises but they do it again. But their repentance is not complete because don't understand what Martin Luther meant when he said that true repentance means "to do it no more."
So, if not having to say "I'm sorry" means measured communications and behaviors as well as living so apologies are not needed, I think they got it right.
The good news is that if we blow it and long to turn the clock back and try again, we can find hope in the teachings of Steven Covey. He says when we break trust with another person, the only way to restore it is to make and keep small promises. (My paraphrase)To do this is proactive and responsive, not reactive and repetitive.
Our grand apologies, even if accompanied by tears, chocolates and flowers, are empty if bad persists. The only way to rebuild a damaged wall is to reverse the process of the damage-brick by brick. And the only way to avoid broken trust is to learn to live so we won't break it. Until that happens, all forms of repentance are just remorse.
The people I admire the most are those who are good to their word and live their values with grace. Living one's values is done by knowing what is valued and exercising the character and commitment needed to respond to life in the context of those values.
What do you think?
Posted by Jack Corbin Getz at Saturday, January 31, 2009