“Sorry” is such a small, simple word. It’s five letters long, but its impact can be incredible.
When small children (and sometimes adults) say ‘sorry’ to someone it’s often through gritted teeth and often under duress. But a heartfelt, humble apology is powerful. Today we heard the Prime Minister of Australia issue an apology to people affected by Australia’s forced adoption policy between the 1950s and 1970s. (See BBC website for more)
These are her powerful words:
“Today, this Parliament, on behalf of the Australian people, takes responsibility and apologises for the policies and practices that forced the separation of mothers from their babies which created a lifelong legacy of pain and suffering.”
“We deplore the shameful practices that denied you, the mothers, your fundamental rights and responsibilities to love and care for your children.”
I can’t pretend to understand how it happened, or how it has felt to have been a victim of such a policy, but I know from reading news reports of how people have responded to the apology that it has been a powerful moment for those who have been affected and afflicted by this. ‘Sorry’ has the power to release people from resentment, anger and hurt.
Taking responsibility and apologising go hand in hand. When a child reluctantly utters the word ‘sorry’ they have not taken responsibility for what happened, they just want to avoid the consequences of not apologising (being sent to the naughty step).
Some people who are victims of the outrage may have been so scarred and traumatised by it that they find it very difficult to forgive. I understand that, and know that human forgiveness begins with a desire to forgive that sometimes has to germinate before it can begin to grow and flourish.
‘Sorry’ without taking responsibility is shallow. Taking responsibility without ‘sorry’ is heartless. When the two come together as one the process of reconciliation, healing and generous forgiveness can begin.
We all need to take responsibility for our actions and ask to be forgiven when we have hurt others or let them down. Sometimes we need to take responsibility for what someone else has done because the legacy of their actions remains long after they have left the scene, but if we belong to an institution that has been part of the problem we need to be the start of the solution.
I am grateful to God for the grace and example of the Australian PM. I pray for all those who were the victims of this heartless policy. I pray too for God to show me anyone to whom I need to apologise, taking responsibility for my actions.
God’s grace and forgiveness are always available to us. They are only restricted by our ability to ask for them and receive them. I am grateful that God offers complete forgiveness when I ask for it, having taken responsibility for what I say and do that falls short of his standards.
It’s available for you too.
Be blessed, be a blessing.
A new soldier was on sentry duty at the main gate. His orders were clear. No car was to enter unless it had a special sticker on the windscreen. A big Army car came up with a general seated in the back. The sentry said, “Halt, who goes there?”
The chauffeur, a corporal, says, “General Wheeler.”
“I’m sorry, I can’t let you through. You’ve got to have a sticker on the windshield.”
The general said, “Drive on!”
The sentry said, “Hold it! I am really sorry. You really can’t come through. I have orders to arrest you if you try driving in without a sticker.”
The general repeated, “I’m telling you, son, drive on!”
The sentry walked up to the rear window and said, “General, I’m sorry but I am new at this. Do I arrest you or the the driver?”