Not too long ago I was given the chance to visit Colorado for a week for a ministry called “Operation Restored Warrior.” It was an incredible and life-changing journey and I learned a lot. But, one thing that stuck with me was what one of the directors said to me. His name is Chris Fields and he is an incredible man, a combat veteran; a guy who held me in his arms while I sobbed…What?!
That week was emotional, don’t judge.
Anyways, Chris taught me something so simple that it didn’t even make sense at first.
“Scott, stop saying you are sorry. Start asking for forgiveness.”
Wait, what? Isn’t that the same thing?
Wrong. You see, saying that you are sorry is a lot like asking people at church how they are doing. It’s just a formality. We don’t often mean it.
Be honest. The last time that you said you were sorry I bet that what you really meant was, “This is standard protocol for me screwing up” or “I am really just sorry that I was caught” (that one is my go-to).
Most of the time, when we say “I’m sorry” we are really just doing it for ourselves. We are doing it to make ourselves feel better and to hear that person say, “I forgive you.”
It’s not because we long for reconciliation; we just want to sleep better at night.
On the other hand, when we ask for forgiveness, we are taking the power and giving it to those we have wronged. We are humbling ourselves and saying, “I wronged you and I hurt you. Will you forgive me?”
It’s not just about saying the words, though. If it were, “I am sorry” would be perfect. But, it’s about the placement of our heart and it’s about putting others above your own ego and pride…Period.
You give them the choice, and, better than that, you show them that how they feel and what they say matters.
Recently, I sat down with an old friend for coffee…someone whom I had hurt time and time again. She was one of my best friends and had tried to help me through a dark and sinful time in my life, but I wouldn’t listen (well I pretended to). I would lie and continue to screw up, over and over again, pushing her away and breaking her trust.
I sat across from her at a Starbucks and asked her to forgive me and she said “of course.”
Do not misunderstand me. It will not always be that easy. And many days and nights passed before I mustered up the courage to even text Monica. So, maybe that’s where you are at right now. Maybe there is someone you need to look in the eyes and admit to that you screwed up. You need to ask them how that made them feel. You need to ask them for their forgiveness and be prepared for them to say no. That is okay. It will sting and it will hurt. But it is okay.
Sometimes, they’ll refuse to even meet with you. There are people in my life with whom I have tried to meet with and they just don’t seem ready or into it. That is okay; they have that right. Give it time, pray, and do not give up.
There are some people with whom I have not yet found the strength to talk to. People whom I know that I will one day need to look in the eyes and beg for forgiveness. And I bet some of you are there too. Stay strong and pray that God would give you that lion’s heart. Give that person or people the honor of having a say in your forgiveness.
Ultimately, your eternal destiny was decided by God; but, here on earth, we are called to repent, seek forgiveness, and ask for reconciliation. So, call them, text them, email them. Whatever it takes, do not let another day go by without trying.
You could literally be one conversation away from rebuilding a friendship that would have otherwise died.
So, don’t give up. Humble yourself and ask for forgiveness. And, stop saying you’re sorry.