Children, here’s how you apologize

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U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, left, speaks during a campaign rally in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Aug. 8, 2016. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, right, speaks at a campaign rally in Charlotte, N.C., on Aug. 18, 2016. Left photo courtesy of REUTERS/Chris Keane. Right photo courtesy of REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

U.S. Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, left, speaks during a campaign rally in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Aug. 8, 2016. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, right, speaks at a campaign rally in Charlotte, N.C., on Aug. 18, 2016. Left photo courtesy of REUTERS/Chris Keane. Right photo courtesy of REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Children, today our lesson is on apologizing. This is a very important thing that people do in life, and it is important that you learn from a very early age how to apologize. It is a very simple thing, really, but sometimes even grown-ups find it surprisingly hard to do. So today we are going to learn how to apologize. Everyone listen very closely.

People mess up. They do wrong things and hurt others. The reason people mess up is that they are not perfect. Sometimes they are far from perfect. The Bible’s word for messing up is “sin.” People are described as “sinners” in the Bible, which means not just that we sometimes mess up but that we are messed up inside ourselves, in our hearts, and this inside mess often comes out in what we say and do. From the Bible’s perspective, every time we sin we violate our relationship with God. We almost always also violate our relationships with other people.

When you realize you have messed up, or sinned, the first thing that usually happens if you are a good or even normal person is that you feel pretty bad about it. You have a bad feeling in your heart, or your emotions, that tells you that what you did was wrong. This is a very unpleasant feeling, but it is how God gets our attention to let us know we have done something wrong and need to deal with it.

That bad feeling, when you think about it, is actually a good thing. It motivates us to try to make things right with God and those whom we have hurt. The fancy grown up word for that deep bad feeling when we know we have done something wrong is “contrition.” Another word for it that Christians sometimes use is “conviction.” When we feel contrite we feel bad for having sinned. When we feel convicted it feels like God is talking to us and telling us we have done something wrong.

When this is the feeling that you have, the first thing to do is to go to God and say that you are sorry. You can just say, “God, I sinned. I am truly sorry.” You should also then go to the person you have hurt and say something like, “I sinned against you. I should not have done what I did. I am truly sorry.” This is called confessing sin, a really important part of apologizing. There is no real apology unless you confess that you have done something wrong, and really feel it, and really mean it.

The next thing to do is to say something like: “I did something wrong, and I ask you to forgive me. I am going to try very hard not to do anything like that again.” This really matters both to God and people. An apology is real to the extent that you really believe that you did something wrong, you really ask for forgiveness, and you really intend not to do the same wrong thing again. Forgiveness is something like people deciding not to hold against you the wrong thing that you did, but just instead letting it go. Forgiveness is a really, really important part of human life.

Sometimes it is hard for people to forgive when you apologize. This is sad but understandable. You might need to give them some time. You might need to show several times that you are really, truly sorry. You might need to do something special to make it right with the other person. Getting actual forgiveness to happen may be a journey. But it starts with being really, truly, visibly sorry.

Sometimes people try to pretend that they are apologizing when they really aren’t sorry. They might say: “I am sorry if anyone was offended,” which really means something like: “I don’t really think I did anything wrong, but if you do, that’s too bad, and I hope you feel better soon.” Or they might say: “Johnny did something worse than I did.” This may or may not be true, but a true apology is never about comparing your wrong deed to someone else’s wrong deed, but instead about taking responsibility for what you did, and making that right.

Never, ever pretend to apologize. If you don’t think you did something wrong, say so.

Children, there can be no right relationships with God or with other people if you do not have the ability to truly apologize. People don’t expect perfection from you. But they do expect an honest apology when you mess up. If you don’t offer that, they will find it really hard to believe anything else that you say. Learn how to apologize, okay?