Many years ago I experienced that ministry hurt that so many pastors/church people talk about. It was the one that simultaneously makes you question whether or not you want to be a pastor and makes you a better pastor at the same time. A long time passed before I could even talk about the people who hurt me, much less talk to them. I recall saying to those who knew me well that I would worry about reconciling with them in Heaven. Until then, I didn’t think I could ever get past my pain. Nothing before or since hurt me like that experience.
Then one day I got a call. One of the prime offenders asked me to coffee. This was to be the first time that I would sit down with him since the event that wounded me so badly. During the drive over I played through all the things I wanted to say to him…all the things I wasn’t strong enough to say in the moment. I’m not proud of it, but I wanted to let him have it. Revenge.
When I saw him I could feel adrenaline. “No, I didn’t want coffee” I told him. In and out was my plan. He was not someone that I wanted to spend the afternoon with, sipping lattes.
He beat me to the punch…
“I screwed up. In the moment I really believed I was doing the right thing, but that’s no excuse. I hurt you, and I am really sorry for the pain that must have caused you”
That conversation was about 5 years ago and I am tearing up right now as I re-type the encounter. Everything disappeared. No anger, no desire for revenge, nothing. He apologized in such a humble and contrite way that the greatest hurt I have ever experienced was gone like it never happened. The feeling of being able to let that go was one of the most amazing releases in my life. I didn’t know how heavy it had been. He made that possible by doing something that many people don’t know how to do…
It’s common to hear an apology that sounds something like this: “I’m sorry you were offended” or “I’m sorry you feel that way.”
These are not apologies. (source)
These are non-apologies. They don’t express regret or repentance, but rather pity that the other person is over-sensitive. These are offensive and usually make things worse.
An apology can heal the deepest of wounds, but it has to be done correctly.
I’m sorry. I know that hurt you. I was wrong. Will you please forgive me? (source)