One of my closest friends is Jewish, and as Yom Kippur–the day of fasting and atonement–approached last week she sent me a link to a great blog post called How to Say You’re Sorry.
I was surprised (and pleased) to learn that the 12th century Jewish scholar Maimonides said that if an apology isn’t accepted at first, you need to apologize two more times.
This makes sense: the goal is to have the other person hear your apology, and sometimes that doesn’t happen right away. When someone is angry or hurt, emotion clouds the ability to process what’s being said. And if you’re going to say “I’m sorry” once, the second and third times are relatively easy.
I’ve found that as I’ve worked on apologizing–honestly and humbly–when I’ve done wrong, it’s gotten easier to admit my mistakes and errors. Why? Because the main barrier to apologizing is usually pride, so my resistance to saying “I’m sorry” is actually a measure of how far I am from God.
Jesus said, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).
I want to give the gift of myself to God. First, then, I must be reconciled to others. That starts simply, with two words: I’m sorry. It’s worth learning to say them well.