Saying sorry has always been easy for me, too easy in fact. I had no idea how often I threw the words “I’m sorry” around in such an inappropriate way until a beloved family member pointed it out. A few years ago, my great aunt, who truly is GREAT as well as being my grandmother’s much younger, much cooler sister, was visiting my family. She sat at the island in my kitchen watching the craziness of our lives in only the manner she can. After observing for a while, she asked me in her sage way, “Why do you feel the need to say sorry about everything?”
Her question took me aback because of its complexity and I mumbled something intelligent in reply like “What? I don’t do that.”
She pointed out that she had witnessed the following conversations.
From my husband, “Honey, do we have any duct tape? I’m sorry; I think you used it all last time you completed your project.”
From one of my kids, “Mom, have you seen my belt? I’m sorry, I haven’t seen it.” Apparently, I had even apologized to the dog that was getting antsy when her walk was delayed. “I’m so sorry sweetie, I just needed to get that laundry started before I could take you.”
After a pregnant, uncomfortable pause, I went back to her question. “Why do I feel the need to say sorry about everything?” Quick answers flew into my mind: I’m just being polite and it is no big deal. I knew better than to share these because she would identify them as excuses, which is what they really were, in a blink of her twinkle filled eyes. I settled on “because I am sorry that my husband and son can’t find what they are looking for.” I had nothing to defend my conversation with the dog.
She sweetly shared in her southern voice that an I’m sorry is sacred and every time I threw it around, it lost some of its sacristy. When I was really apologetic did my family know the difference or did they find it be as hollow as the ones I spewed so carelessly?
I immediately decided to change my behavior because I wanted authenticity in my words with those I loved. And this included the God I professed to love as well. No longer could I blaze through the confession part of my prayers with quick lists and shallow statements. Those apologies held no depth and God and I both knew it. Today, saying I’m sorry, I’m really sorry to God, has become the most sacred part of my prayer time. Because it wasn’t until I started being authentic in my confessions that His forgiveness became authentic to me.
My GREAT aunt is definitely wise and I’m anything but sorry she is.