Sorry or Not?
Colossians 3:13 ESV
Sorry, not sorry…so are you calling someone out?
My kids and I had a long standing joke at our house when they were growing up. It had to do with being sorry. Looking back, I don’t remember who started it, but when it started it seemed to spread like a wildfire.
See, when offering an apology the rule was that they needed to really be sorry. However, 99.9% of the time they were not really really sorry.
Their sorry sounded like Saw-Reee with heavy emphasis like a shout on the SAW part. They knew that would not suffice because they would have to say it again and again until it sounded like they were really sorry.
Saw-reee became part of our family story.
Please understand that I have a very very hard time keeping a straight face while this was happening. No matter how hard I try (even today) I can’t keep from laughing. So the minute they said , saw-reee I would laugh. I seriously tried really really hard not to laugh but they knew it was probably inevitable.
One of my sons had getting me to laugh down to art form. He was also the one they would send in to butter me up if they wanted to go do something they knew I probably would not allow.
Many times after he came it, I would hear him whisper to his siblings “it’s not a good time to ask.”
I’ve never asked them if they knew I knew he was sent in as a spy. Someday when we’re all together I’ll have to ask that question.
Back to saw-ree.
When a disagreement occurred a referee was usually needed. The disagreement was usually followed by altercation, usually between two of my children.
When that happened they would come to me to act as referee (which was not my favorite thing to do). That was really really hard for me because I had to do it without laughing.
I would listen to both sides and I would make a decision about who should say “sorry” first. Now mind you, in the end they were undoubtedly both going to have to say “sorry” but someone had to get the ball rolling.
Once I decided who had to say “sorry” first, depending on which child it was, I would tell them they needed to BE contrite. That’s because saying sorry doesn’t mean anything if you’re not really sorry. It really is like the new term sorry…not sorry.
As time passed and the children got older they still often held onto the right to be sorry…not sorry. Sometimes that’s just the way it goes.
Forgiveness is tough business and for the better part of my life I didn’t understand it well.
For one thing I thought I needed to feel like forgiving the other person.
Sorry, not sorry is a perfect example of that. You are sorry they hurt you but not always sorry for your part in it so you hold onto wanting to call them out on it. You really don’t believe they should get away with what they did to you.
The thing about being sorry or not sorry is that we have to work through our feelings.
Just like you, I’ve been through some pretty rough times where I was treated ready badly by people I thought I could trust.
The person did what they did and I don’t think they regretted what they did. That made it even harder for me to work through my feelings of forgiveness.
I also struggled with my relationship with God when I had been deeply hurt.
How could God let that person hurt me and leave me struggling with my feelings.
Then one day about 20 years ago I learned that I don’t have to feel like forgiving someone in order to forgive them.
That kind of went through me like a storm.
So, if I say, “I forgive them” and that releases the matter into God’s hands, then it’s God’s deal?
I thought it through…so once it’s God deal, God is going to help me deal with my feelings and my pain.
I came to realize that sorry…not sorry becomes irrelevant. See, whether I feel sorry or do not feel sorry it doesn’t matter. By telling God I forgive them it puts God in charge.
I don’t know about you, but for me it was a total game-changer. All my life I had struggled with feeling good about the person who hurt me. But I had it backwards, and I don’t think it was just me. For 50 years no one in church had ever explained a theology of forgiveness that told me to release it into God’s hands so God can deal with it.
Until later in life one told me I don’t have to feel like forgiving them.
See, struggling with my feelings by myself made me feel like I was on my own and my feelings didn’t matter to God. Once I started saying to God, ‘I forgive them’ I started to feel like my feelings really did matter to God.
That’s why it was such a game-changer.
Suddenly I felt like I mattered to God.
I realized that God was working all things for good for me. I felt like I could breathe when someone stomped on my heart. All I had to do was say, “Alrighty then, I forgive you.”
When I first started practicing a theology of forgiveness where I release it to God, I was so giddy about it that I went a little overboard.
I would say to God, “Okay, so even though this person stomped on me and I really don’t think they deserve my forgiveness, I forgive them and put the matter into Your hands.”
I told you, I went overboard.
A while after I started practicing this theology of forgiveness where God is in charge, God called me to go to Seminary. One thing I can categorically tell you about Seminary is that there are no stones left unturned when you study scripture.
I studied scripture about forgiveness from about fifty different lenses. Basically it came down to what Paul wrote in Colossians 3:13 when he told the church to bear with, “one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
Do you have a beef with someone? Bear with them. Forgive them. God forgave you, so you forgive them. Nothing…absolutely nothing is said about forgiving them because you feel like forgiving them. Say…”I forgive them.” When I say, I forgive them and release it, God takes over.
Studying what scripture about forgiveness from the perspective of ME not having to feel good about the other person before I forgave them made the Gospel message ever ever so precious to me. The nuts and bolts about forgiveness puts it in God’s hand and that’s where it should be. Know why?
Simply put, I’m not God.
God is God. Forgiveness is God’s business. By saying to God I forgive, I am turning it over to God…who IS God. Sorry…not sorry either way, God will handle it.
Spiritual Practice: Forgive
If you are carrying a burden of forgiving someone, say to God “I forgive them”. Let God deal with the details.
In God, Deborah