We all know the scenario: Sibling1 hits/pinches/bites/teases Sibling2, Sibling2 screams and cries, parent scolds Sibling1 and insists that Sibling2 receive an apology, Sibling1 angrily shouts/inaudibly whispers/sarcastically spits out an "I'm sorry," accompanied by an eye-roll/stuck out tongue/crossed fingers.
It seems we never really grow out of this routine. Too often, this half-hearted, coerced apology is the sort we see following blunders and gaffs that are race-related. They are what are known as non-apologies. They often include the initial words "I am sorry" but then go on to detail how the original action was not intended to offend, or that it was taken out of context, or that it was taken the wrong way. The problem is that none of these statements actually address the original action or the apologizer's culpability.
How would that work with any other wrong that someone might commit? For example, like blatantly cheating on a spouse: "I'm sorry, I didn't think it was offensive" (but it was!), "It wasn't my intention to hurt you" (but you did!), "I am sorry you feel like you were wronged" (but I was!), "You misinterpreted the situation" (but I didn't!), "You are making a big deal over nothing" (but I'm not!). How would that make you feel? Would you feel like your feelings were respected? Or would you feel like your reality had be de-legitimized?
I wrote previously about Bush's non-apology, but here are some great examples of recent racial non-apologies (click image for details):
In the course of our discussions about our racial brokenness we will mess up (all have fallen short), so we might as well learn how to apologizes for those mistakes. Luckily, as Christians we already have a good basis for this process: we know that in Christ, we must confess our sins (own up to them), repent (be truly sorry in our hearts), and then change our ways (not just say that we will).
Maybe you honestly think the other person is being over-sensitive. So what? The pain is still there and it is still real. Give the benefit of the doubt, humble yourself, and apologize anyway--for the sake of the Gospel, and your relationship with that person.
|Jimmy Johns gets it!|
So if (read: when) you trip up and find yourself in need of forgiveness, take the humble rout. Don't get defensive, or explain yourself, or downplay the situation. Rather, apologize, acknowledge your mistakes, take ownership for the ignorance out of which you made them, and work to improve yourself.