I was on call for a small hospital, and staying in a hotel nearby. Things went fine until the third morning. I rely heavily on a reliable internet connection wherever I am, but this particular morning I was unable to connect regardless of what I tried. My laptop, my smart phone, my tablet, my husband’s smart phone – the connection which had been just fine yesterday simply wasn’t working today.
I called the front desk and asked for assistance. I was told to take some steps to fix the problem. They didn’t work. The clerk came up to my room and tried to connect my smart phone to the internet using a process I knew wouldn’t work. My frustration was growing by the moment, and I became louder and ruder as time went on, letting her know how wrong the steps she suggested had been.
A short time later the front desk called again. The clerk had contacted IT support, and together they resolved the problem. I thanked her. The problem was on her end, not mine. I had been right all along!
And I had also been wrong.
My conscience bothered me. Yes, I knew more about modems and WiFi and internet connections than the clerk did. But what if she found out that I’m a Christian, or perhaps even a Christian minister? What impression did my behavior give of Christ-followers? What if today was the day God wanted to reach her heart in a special way?
I was embarrassed. She had been 90% wrong, but I had to own my 10% of the wrong. I asked God’s forgiveness. And as I walked past the front desk a short time later I apologized to the clerk for my behavior, and thanked her for making sure that the problem was taken care of. It wasn’t a perfect “I’m sorry,” but it cleared the air – and my conscience.
Have you felt your conscience pricked when you’ve done something unChristlike? If you haven’t, that’s another problem. But if you have, I hope you haven’t ignored the Holy Spirit’s stirring in your heart.
Here are a few things about saying “I’m sorry” that are important:
- You’re only responsible for your part in the problem. No more. And no less. It doesn’t matter if the other person is 90%, or 99%, wrong, you do have to own whatever part of the problem lies with you. (Romans 12:18)
- Ask for God’s forgiveness. The Holy Spirit never condemns; He convicts. There’s a difference. His action on your heart brings you to recognize your wrong, be open to God’s forgiveness, and change your behavior going forward. Nothing is too small, or too large, for Him to forgive. (1 John 1:9)
- Apologize quickly. The longer you wait, the harder it becomes. But don’t neglect to apologize simply because it’s been a long time. Say something like, “Please forgive me for . . . I was wrong. I’m sorry.” (Matthew 5:25)
- Don’t make any excuses! Don’t say, “But I was tired.” Or, “If you hadn’t . . . “ Or, “That made me so mad!” If you want to say those things to yourself, fine. And then get over it. You’re not trying to make yourself look good. Simply apologize, and then shut up!
- Change your behavior. This becomes especially important in ongoing relationships. If I stay at that particular hotel again, or any other, it’s absolutely mandatory that I treat that clerk and every other one with respect and courtesy, whether or not there’s an internet problem.
My momentary rude behavior was my fault, but it was a relatively small problem. Some things you need to say “I’m sorry” about are much bigger. And in close relationships such as marriage the stakes are so much higher.
But the principles are always the same:
- Own your own stuff.
- Apologize without making excuses.
- Change your behavior.
Now wouldn’t life be so much better if we all learned to behave that way?
Next time I’ll talk more about saying “I’m sorry” when it’s your spouse you need to apologize to.
[reminder]Have you felt your conscience pulling you to say “I’m sorry”? Did you do it? Why or why not?[/reminder]
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- Saying “I’m sorry” is not fun. Here’s how to do it effectively. Tweet that.