I'm Sorry But...

The Guideposts editor-in-chief shares why our relationship with God is about forgiveness.

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There he was today, almost unrecognizable in his mortification, standing stiffly at a podium, Tiger Woods, absent the battle-red Sunday tournament shirt, the fist pump, the gleaming victory smile, abjectly owning up to his behavior.

GUIDEPOSTS is not the place to pass judgment or even comment on Tiger’s troubles; there are plenty of forums for that. But it did get me thinking about the nature of an apology and how difficult it is for us sometimes to offer or even accept one. I wonder which is harder?

It was marriage that taught me how to say “I’m sorry” with no “but” attached to it. That was hard. I always wanted to append my apology with an explanation or justification for whatever it was I’d supposedly done wrong. “I’m sorry but” is not an apology, it’s an excuse. I’ve had to learn to bite my tongue after sorry. It is deeply ingrained behavior that I still fight with. Yet once given, an apology can be a cathartic way to move on. I’ve never regretted saying the S word.

But acceptance of an apology can be even tougher, as Tiger Woods is finding out. It challenges our capacity to forgive and let go of a grievance. I can get pretty comfortable being the aggrieved party enjoying the moral high ground. Accepting an apology means I have to give that up and move on. I have to let go of resentment and stop judging. I have to forgive.

Without forgiveness there is no human race. Imperfect as we are we simply couldn’t function together at any level without the capacity to forgive. Our relationship with God is based on the concept of forgiveness being the ultimate expression of divine love.

It even enters into our relationship with our animals. The other morning as I was rushing around the apartment getting ready for work I tromped on Millie’s giant tail, eliciting a muffled yelp. She sprung to her feet and scampered to a safe distance. “I’m sorry,” I said, “but you were right in the middle of the hallway.” 

There I go again. 

Eventually I sat on the couch with my paper to sip my coffee and glue myself to the sports pages for a few minutes. Millie lay curled in a corner, casting me a baleful look. I was scanning the Olympics coverage when her head emerged from beneath the paper and she rested her chin on my knee. 

What was this? Was she saying it’s okay, all is forgiven? I think so. I think it pained her to feel something amiss between us and she had to make it right. And it was very natural to her. 

“I’m sorry about your tail,” I said this time, giving her a hug that I know she understood.

One good thing I can say about Tiger Woods today was that he didn’t say but. It’s a start.

Edward Grinnan is Editor-in-Chief and Vice President of GUIDEPOSTS Publications.

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