Yesterday you were subjected to two bloggages in one day. I apologise. Nobody should have to suffer that!
I had been reflecting and writing the second one (about theology from a joke) and had intended to schedule it for delivery today. I thought I had successfully set that up and hit ‘publish’ only for the system to throw a small wobbly and I had to go back to a previously saved draft – which had not been scheduled. I didn’t realise that and ‘published’ immediately. The bloggage went out into the world and, short of going back in time, there was nothing I could do about it.
Once you have released a bloggage into the wild it cannot be recalled. It’s the same with things we say or do that hurt others – once they have happened we can’t make them unhappen. But we can, when we realise our error, admit it, seek forgiveness, try to repair damage and learn from what happened.
After a couple of days’ respite, the incessant flow of bloggerel resumes. Sorry about that.
I am sorry if you missed me during my days off. Or I am sorry if you are disappointed that I have started again. Either way, I am sorry.
Elton John sang in 1976, “Sorry seems to be the hardest word…” I am not sure that this is the case. Sorry is a complex word. It only consists of four different letters (‘r’ repeated) but it can mean so much when we say it, and saying it can be really complex. If it trips off our tongue and we don’t mean what we say, it is devalued, trivialised, almost irrelevant. On the other hand, it can be really difficult for us to say it and mean it sometimes, especially if we feel badly hurt ourselves. But I don’t think it is the hardest word. Perhaps the hardest word is what we say in response to ‘sorry’. I think it often costs more to forgive than to ask for forgiveness.
I have been considering all sorts of different analogies for ‘sorry’ (including labrador dogs, cowboys’ revolvers and blowing up a balloon [probably best not to ask!]) but all of them are inadequate. I think that is because ‘sorry’ is unique as a word and as a concept: ‘sorry’ can be liberating for both the forgiver and the forgivee. It can release forgiveness when someone is finding it difficult to do that themselves, and it enables grace to flow when perhaps pride or hurt have hardened hearts. It is the beginning of restored relationships and enables fresh starts.
I know that I regularly have to say ‘sorry’ to God and too often have to say ‘sorry’ to other people. But I hope that I never take it lightly when I say it or when someone says it to me. It is a precious gift to be cherished.
“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?”
Sorry to anyone who has come here today in search of fresh bloggerel. A combination of busy-ness, a lousy headache and tiredness left me bereft of inspiration.
So, here’s a joke instead.
A Baptist Minister realized that his church had never received a donation from the church’s wealthiest member. He went to see him…
“Our records shows that out of a yearly income of at least £400,000, you have nver given anything to this church. Inwas wondering if you’d like to do so now. Wouldn’t you like to give back to the community in some way?”
The wealthy man mulled this over for a moment and replied, “First, did your records also show that my mother is dying after a long illness, and has medical bills that are several times her annual income?”
Embarrassed, the Minister mumbled, “Um … no.”
The man interrupts, “or that my brother, a disabled veteran, is blind and confined to a wheelchair?”
The forlorn Minister began to stammer out an apology, but was interrupted again.
“or that my sister’s husband died in a traffic accident,” the man’s voice rising in indignation, “leaving her penniless with three children?!”
The humiliated Minister, completely beaten, said simply, “I had no idea…”
On a roll, the wealthy man cut him off once again, “So if I don’t give any money to them, why should I give any to you?”
I am sorry that I have not posted anything for the last couple of days. This is because I was without t’internet, enjoying a few days away with some of our church. ‘Normal’ service (whatever that is) will be resumed tomorrow, I hope.
In the meantime, a jokette for you…
They say there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes.
Unless you are a billionaire, in which case there are off-shore accounts and cryogenics!