All Apologies

I came across an interesting article by Jelena Woehr about apologizing like you really mean it.

To quote from the article:

If you were wronged by an observant Jew in the past year, you may have received a phone call or visit seeking forgiveness. This is because during the Days of Awe — the ten days beginning with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Yom Kippur — Jews practice t’shuvah, meaning repentance, a term closely related to the Hebrew word for “to return.”

The article goes on to call out the differences between true repentance and the type of apology that follows it and the false public apologies that are becoming so common as our leaders and celebrities fail in their public and private lives.

We are going to mess things up. Messing things up causes damage to the people around us. We don’t always intend to hurt those around us, but sometimes we do. Once done, the damage cannot be undone.

So what am I to do?

Repent (I turn around). Apologize (I verbally acknowledge the impact on others). Make amends (I do what I can to repair the damage).

Sounds simple, but it is incredibly difficult because it forces me to accept responsibility for what I did and look at the damage from another person’s viewpoint.

Steps 4 through 9 of the “12 Steps” developed by Alcoholics Anonymous (but apply to any addiction) are about this process. That means half of the recovery process is about acknowledging how my actions and attitudes damage others and then making amends. It is also important to notice that neither t’shuvah nor the recovery steps place any burden or responsibility on the other person. My process is independent of the other person’s actions or reactions. I think that is the hardest part.

I tend to want some amount of justification for what I did. I want others to be sorry for what they did to me that “caused” me to do what I did. I want others to be impressed that I apologized, and I certainly want them to “forgive and forget.” I want others to accept my amends, offered on my terms, and to be happy about it.

Repentance and amends are mine. They impact me and affect who I am. In Matthew 5:23–24, Jesus says, “So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift” (CSB).

I cannot be responsible for how another person receives my apology or my amends. That doesn’t remove the responsibility to repent and make whatever amends I can. I need to keep my side of the street clean, and that is enough to keep me pretty busy.