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‘I’m Sorry’: The Power of Being Wrong

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ —  Matthew 18:13

We’d probably lose count of the number of times in our life we’ve needed to say, “I’m sorry”.

Child, teen, adult, single, married, whatever our status, it’s our humanness that brings us to apologize, sometimes when it’s not necessary.

Lent is a perfect time to consider what unfinished business there is among those in our circle who may not “deserve” at least a bit of empathy and, ultimately, our forgiveness.

As Pope Francis laid out:

If we are not capable of apologizing, it means we are not capable of forgiveness either. … Many hurt feelings, many lesions in the family begin with the loss of those precious words: ‘I am sorry.’ In married life there are many arguments … but I advise you never to let the day end without making peace. And for this, a small gesture is enough.” — General audience, May 13, 2015

If I could talk with engaged couples, I’d urge them to “turn down the talking and turn up the listening”. True marital dialogue comes up short if there is a continual one-way conversation or worse, a monologue. The road to common ground and to a way out of what might be a serious disagreement may lie in holding back and pray for a loving and just response.

This attribute seems in short supply these days, fueled by unlimited haranguing on social media. How to turn off that noise and work together to address the root of the disagreement. How often does this come up- “You’re not listening.”  Step back, take a breath, and acknowledge the concern, ask forgiveness, and work together to seek a solution.

In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ parable, the Pharisee standing in the corner, making congratulatory prayer, seems momentarily satisfied, but what is next for him? Separation from others who “don’t fit in” the man’s daily orbit. What are you and I doing to embrace those not only close to us, but away from our immediate influence, who don’t know our good side, and don’t know our shortcomings?

Perhaps, this Lent is the opportunity to sit with the Lord and say, basically, thank you for all your gifts I have been given. Thank you for letting me know I can do better. I affirm my need to be a better human. I need to not “be right” every day, but to recognize how much more I must do in Your name. Have mercy on me, indeed, a sinner.


Michael Throop