I’m sorry all right.

Asking for Forgiveness

If you look really closely, you can probably pinpoint at least three lies you were told today. More than likely, two of them were unintentional. What?

Did I say that?

Yes. Yes, you did. You slathered it in sugar, so I would swallow the arsenic. Lies are toxic and burn out your insides. You are so used to being “nice” you never noticed you were poisoning me. But that was the last post. Time to move on.

I’m sorry.”

Let’s get one thing straight. When you say these words, you are not apologetic. When you say I’m sorry and nothing more, it means:

I did not care enough to consider your feelings and consequences to my actions when I made the conscious decision to act. Now, you know I have acted. I am faced with your appropriate ire and wish for you to forgive me instead of bestowing what I so richly deserve.” (Edited to maintain maturity level rating.)

When actually, you are this kind of sorry:

wretched, poor, useless, or pitiful”

litter box

That is harsh!

…which makes it no less true. American society is rife with the knee-jerk I’m sorry. We are teaching it to misbehaving toddlers making them believe it means something to spew the words when caught misbehaving…or lying. What are we really teaching?

It is not magic.

Words are so cheap, they have been declared free. The words I’m sorry are not magic. They do not:

  • Reduce anger
  • Alleviate stress
  • Heal pain
  • Mitigate damages
  • Replace losses

Given those toddler lessons, I’m sorry just may assuage enough guilt for you to think you are deserved of forgiveness.

What does it take?

In order to be forgiven, you absolutely must show genuine remorse, not just be willing to do lip service. This means you must:

  • Acknowledge wrongdoing.
  • Have and admit remorse.
  • Show desire and willingness to desist such behavior.
  • Act on the desire.
  • Offer penance.
  • If demanded, do penance..

I did that.

Own it. Pick up your foot. Look at the bottom of your shoe. Proclaim the substance attached to the bottom. Say, “I did ___________. And I lied about it.”

I hate I did that.

Only say this if it is true. Remorse is necessary for forgiveness. Are you really penitent or are you going through the motions to escape the punishment you deserve? Either way, ‘fess up.

I am not going to ___________ again.

As long as you did not fill in the blank with “get caught doing that”, chances are good you understand this part. If you are sorry for more than just being exposed, you are remorseful. This is the first promise to rebuild fractured trust.

Walk the talk.

It is not sufficient just to say you will not do something again. You actually cannot do it again. Even better, do not mention it, think about it, lust after it, covet it or send it an email. If you trip here, you will shatter the infant trust you are building by your promise to desist.

What can I do?

Be prepared for a laundry list. Walk the talk is the first thing on the list. Do not be surprised with penance which includes any of the following:

  • Public profession of guilt.
  • Menial labor.
  • Coddling.
  • Additional work responsibilities.
  • Loss of privileges.
  • Restitution.
  • Replacement of material loss.
  • Extended period of contrition.
  • Any other act, reasonable or otherwise, to mollify the offended party.

It's a two way streetGet busy.

Do not stand still. You scraped off your shoe…and not on the dining room rug. You know where the pile is. Without trouncing through it again, do what is required.

Two-way Street

After all is said and done, you may not have gotten the forgiveness you desired. Be patient. Hurt does not readily abate because the offending party is contrite and doing penance. It takes time to heal. If you have done what you should to rectify the situation, forgiveness will come… even if it comes in the end of a relationship.

NEXT: Forgiving

Do you do penance when you hurt someone?  How does ending a relationship fulfill the concept of penance?

© Red Dwyer 2011
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