Ever met anyone whose favourite expression is ‘I’m sorry’?
Some might consider it an admirable trait to be perpetually penitent.
And certainly humility is a good thing, as is taking ownership when we really have done something wrong. But to be continually self-deprecatory? To constantly assume we’re the ones in the wrong?…
Some people seem to be almost apologising for their existence. And when you’ve had parents who’ve put you down, and made it hard for you to prove your worth in their eyes… well, it’s easy to then assume the worst about yourself in every situation.
To take on the default stance of ‘I’m sorry’ indicates a mindset that everything is always your fault. Or that perhaps you desperately need to maintain the image of being kind, compliant, easygoing. Or maybe, as in my case, you’re avoiding conflict. Ensuring I take credit for mishaps that might be another person’s fault helps to assuage my fear of people’s anger.
But we need some balance.
Many Christians believe there’s something extra ‘holy’ about staying sorrowful over how sinful we are. And absolutely – we often need reminders that God has saved us from ourselves. It’s not our doing that we “were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to [us] from [our] forefathers” (I Peter 1:18). But the key word is ‘redeemed’.
Dictionary.com defines redeemed as “to buy or pay off; clear by payment”. And Jesus has done that. He paid off our debt of sin on the cross. He died so we might be set free. No longer a slave to sin and its accompanying guilt and shame.
If we don’t live our lives as ones redeemed, we are more prone to remain in a perpetual state of depression and unhealthy, destructive sorrow which stunts our growth and our ministry.
Sure, we all sin, every day. And, as in any healthy relationship, open communication with God (who already knows our hearts and actions anyway) enables us to repent and move on. Obviously some misdemeanors leave deep scars, and counselling can be necessary to assess whether the relationship can be rescued. But when it comes to the daily attitudes, actions or omissions in our lives, it pays to make things right with people by being honest and turning from our ways whenever we can.
But the key has to be in the turning. The action of moving away from the wrong and making things right.
If your spouse took money from your joint account to support a gambling habit, then came and told you how sorry he was, with tears in his eyes – well, you’d be pleased, at least, that he was honest and apologetic about it. But if he didn’t take steps to stop what he was doing, the ‘sorrys’ wouldn’t mean much. And your relationship would start to deteriorate.
God’s love is infinite, and he chooses to be in a relationship with people who have and will make mistakes. Our flaws don’t affect his love for us. But our relationship with God won’t grow or be enhanced if we remain in sin. And when we’re imprisoned by habits, we start to worship them rather than God, and we don’t experience the joy and fulfillment a ‘real’ relationship with Him offers. We are missing out.
I know what it’s like to be imprisoned by thoughts I know are unhealthy. I feel trapped, and it seems futile to say ‘I’m sorry’ to God endlessly. But when I have asked for help from others, and have truly allowed the darkness to be extinguished by the light through positive steps in a different direction, I have discovered true freedom from ‘addiction’.
Words are meaningless without actions attached. If you are truly sorry for something, seek help to change your ways. And ask our beautiful God of endless love, grace and forgiveness to walk with you through the valley. You won’t be sorry.
“For if a man belongs to Christ, he is a new person. The old life is gone. New life has begun.”
(2 Corinthians 5:17 NLV)