Saying “I’m sorry, but…” is not a true apology. In seeking to justify or explain away something I have done or left undone, I dismiss the other person’s right to their feelings and experience. Likewise, “I’m sorry that you…” is not a true apology. It makes the other person’s feelings their problem, their fault, rather than making it clear that I realize that their feelings are the result of my actions.
When I have hurt other people, I learn (and re-learn) that what I intended is beside the point and explaining why someone shouldn’t feel hurt is never helpful.
The grace of God reminds us that our worth does not depend on always getting it right. So, there is nothing to be lost (and much to be gained) by admitting our human failures – even the well-intentioned ones.
As Jesus says, the truth can set us free. It is never too late to offer a true apology.
This message is excerpted from “Offering a true apology,” by Meghan Johnston Aelabouni in the July 2017 Café online magazine.
Copyright © 2023 Women of the ELCA. Inquiries for permission to reproduce should be directed to [email protected].