How many times have you apologized to someone for being short-tempered, irritable or forgetful?
Nearly all of us have said something along these lines:
“I’m sorry for being short with you, but I’m so stressed out.”
“I’m sorry I am late paying my bill, but I misplaced it.”
“I’m sorry I forgot your birthday, but I was having a bad day and it made me forgetful.”
What do we blame for our shortcomings?
We blame everyone and everything except ourselves.
Couching our apologies in excuses is an act of self-justification rather than sincere apology. We are quick to justify our bad behavior and even quicker to withhold mercy from those who apologize to us.
Oddly enough, the word “apology” is derived from the latin “apologia” meaning,
When You Don’t Know What to Say, Humble Your Heart and Pray.
Words consistently get us into more trouble than our actions. Go to the Lord before you say a word of apology and ask Him to give you the wisdom to say the right thing for healing. Pray for the person you wounded, and ask the Lord to soothe their aches. Just as Nehemiah prayed before speaking to King Artexerxes, we too can say a silent prayer for guidance before we open our mouths.
Seek to Set Things Right.
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’
But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
~ Matthew 5.21-24, ESV (emphasis mine)
In the above passage, Jesus is primarily addressing the sin of anger. Many of the sins we commit against others stems from some form of anger or irritability. We also wrong others through carelessness or negligence. Whatever the source of the wrong, Jesus encourages us to make things right.
Do not wait for someone to confront you; own up to your mistake, make amends, and do it quickly. We are not guaranteed the next day, let alone the next minute, so act quickly before the opportunity is beyond your grasp.
Make the Other Person Your Focus
We show our love for others more completely when we remove excuses from apologies. When we find ourselves in the wrong, our knee-jerk response is to justify our error. A sincere apology ought to focus on alleviating any pain or inconvenience done to another, rather than seeking removing the stigma from self.
Let’s say you get short-tempered with your spouse while trying to prepare for work. You snap answers in irritation and slam cupboard doors. Later, when your temper has cooled, you realize your error and call them to apologize. What will you say?
“I’m sorry for being short with you. I’ve just been so tired and stressed out…”
The focus of that apology is self, not the spouse. If we refocus the apology on the spouse, it would sound something like this:
“I am so sorry for being short-tempered. It was wrong for me to take out my frustration on you. You deserve the best of my patience and love, not my irritability. Please forgive me for being so inconsiderate of you.”
Even if your spouse had been the source of your irritation, is lashing out a Christ-like response?
The people around us deserve our love because Jesus Himself loved unconditionally. He didn’t die for us while we were “good people,” He died for us while we were lost. He demonstrated love when we did not deserve that love.
If I want to be like Christ, I must love like Christ.
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.“
~ John 15.12-13, ESV (emphasis mine)
In his concluding remarks to the Christians in Corinth, Paul wrote, “Let all that you do be done in love.” Love does not seek it’s own, but seeks the good of another. We are going to mess up in this life as sure as the sun rises, but our error-prone ways should not be used for self-justification. When I make mistakes, I need to swallow my pride and seek reconciliation. When we love others, we shine the light of Christ in a world consumed with itself.
Don’t hide the light of Christ beneath a basket of excuses; shine His light with honest humility.
This is part 5 of the series, “Why are you making excuses?” To read the previous posts, click the following links: