Ten Difficult, But Really Important Words

Many words in the English language are difficult. In fact, there’s even a Dictionary of Difficult Words. But none are more difficult than these: “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Will you please forgive me?”

Young Couple Standing on Opposite Sides of a Wall - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/mediaphotos, Image #14615005

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/mediaphotos

Many otherwise articulate people seem to have great difficulty in spitting these words out. They hem and haw. They stutter. They may get something close out, but they have a hard time slowly and deliberately saying these ten simple words.

But each one of these ten words are important.

  1. “I’m sorry.” Empathy is the ability to put ourselves in another person’s shoes and feel what they feel. This is something we desperately need to develop. But it takes humility.

    Too often, we are preoccupied with our own feelings. However, empathy is the recognition that it’s not all about us. Other people matter. They have feelings, too, and those feelings are important

    By saying we are sorry—sincerely and with authentic humility—we validate them as human beings. We are essentially saying, “I know you are hurt, and I understand. Your feelings are valid, and I am sorry that I am the cause of them. I’m not sorry because I got caught or because you called me out. I’m sorry because of the hurt that I caused you.”

  2. “I was wrong.” This the most difficult sentence of all. Perhaps we live with the mistaken notion that we never do anything wrong. Or perhaps we just think the other person should “give us a pass” because somehow we deserve it. But the truth is, we all make mistakes. If we are not guilty of sins of commission (i.e., deliberately doing something that offends others), we are guilty of sins of omission (i.e., failing to live up to others expectations).

    One of the great things about being a Christian is that I have been released from the need to pretend I am perfect. No, I am a sinner, and I need forgiveness—from God and from the people I offend.

  3. “Will you please forgive me?” This is one of the most powerful sentences we can ever utter. By asking this as a question, we acknowledge that forgiveness is not an entitlement. We don’t deserve forgiveness; we are asking for it as an act of mercy.

    This also acknowledges that it is a choice on the part of the other person. They may withhold their forgiveness. Perhaps they are not ready to make up. They may need some space. But, in my experience, almost always the other person says, “I forgive you.” With this simple sentence, both of us are healed.

We may be tempted to take shortcuts. We could simply say, “I apologize” or “Sorry.” But nothing is quite as effective as saying all ten words. It may seem awkward or artificial at first, but with practice it gets easier. And if you are like me, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice.

Question: Do you find it difficult to get these words out? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://www.bretmavrich.com Bret Mavrich

    Man, the couple in your picture have really been through the ringer. Here they are over at RelevantMagazine.com.  http://ow.ly/5tJDf

    (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)

  • http://twitter.com/sweetrunpastor Pastor Mark Booth

    This truth of this post is palpable.  I really appreciate your comments.  Understood and practiced consistently, it will change your life.  Yeah, it’s hard to do but it will improve your relationships with everyone from your spouse to your fellow employees at work.  Nothing is as important as the integrity to admit you are wrong and intentionally say so in this manner.

    As a pastor and clinical counselor for nearly thirty years, and in my own life I have seen this work over and over to change the lives of people who are struggling with many ingrained bitternesses.  Michael, you have given a good prescription for intentional integrity in relationships.

    In my teaching and counseling I have referred to this as “The Three A’s.”  First, we ADMIT we were wrong.  Second, we APOLOGIZE for our words or deeds.  Third, we ASK for forgiveness.  I have found in my own practice with my family and friends, ASKING is the most important and the most challenging.  

    It’s the most challenging because it takes genuine relationship to a different level.  ASKING for forgiveness takes acknowledging to a much higher plane – it makes me much more vulnerable than simply ADMITTING and APOLOGIZING does.  ASKING for forgiveness opens me up, makes me clearly transparent and places me in a position of possible rejection.  Therefore, being so transparent and open to rejection, I must trust God.  Indeed, one of the clearest visual examples of trusting God that we can give people is the willingness to suffer rejection for what is right.

    ASKING for forgiveness is so very important because it provides an opportunity for the disagreement or relationship breakdown to end.  The personal vulnerability and trust in God that is involved in ASKING for forgiveness and the willingness to wade into the sinky waters of my own humiliation from my sin, defeats my adversary’s attempts to turn one simple sin or mistake into what could become years of bitterness and broken friendship.

    An equally valuable effect of ASKING for forgiveness is that it places control into the hands of the person I just offended or hurt.  It gives them the opportunity to trust God by forgiving me, in the same manner that I am trusting God to be so vulnerable.

    If you will practice, in each of your relationships, these “Ten Important, But Really Important Words,” you will change your life and the lives of those you love and care for.  As my mother counseled me decades ago, “Mark, if it’s tough to do, then it’s probably the right thing and worth the effort.”

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