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What makes an apology genuine?

When someone who has hurt you says, “I’m sorry. I was wrong and I apologize. Will you forgive me?” How does it sound in your ears?   Bob from Alaska wrote me and got me thinking about apologies. He said he wasn’t an Evangelical, but that he appreciated some of the things I say on the blog….
By Seth Barnes
When someone who has hurt you says, “I’m sorry. I was wrong and I apologize. Will you forgive me?” How does it sound in your ears?
 
Bob from Alaska wrote me and got me thinking about apologies. He said he wasn’t an Evangelical, but that he appreciated some of the things I say on the blog.
 
I thanked him and thought for a while about how the word “Evangelical” has fallen on hard times.
 
To some people it’s a synonym for “Judgmental.” When you say “I’m an Evangelical,” they hear, “I’m a Judgmental.”
So many people have had poor experiences with Evangelicals. Cathleen Falsani, a writer who happens to be an Evangelical puts it this way, “Most of my friends knew evangelicalism only through the big, bellicose
voices of TV preachers and religio-political activists such as Pat
Robertson, Jerry Falwell and Chuck Colson. Not surprisingly, my friends
hadn’t experienced an evangelicalism that sounded particularly loving,
accepting or open-minded.”

We say we have a personal relationship with Jesus.
We say that we just want to love people.
We wear our politics on our sleeves.
And yes, we are known for being judgmental.
It’s a problem.
 
So, I decided to write a letter of apology to all the people we Evangelicals have hurt. Perhaps it would help people like Bob to know that some of us who wear the Evangelical label prefer to focus on grace and authenticity instead of pointing fingers.
 
I was going to post it to the blog, but then came doubts. Can I really speak in such a broad way? Wouldn’t a lot be lost in translation? Can it be an apology when you’re addressing the blogosphere?
 
When I polled them, my friends were split on the subject.
 
And I realized that, while apologizing is in general a good thing, it has to be done right. A blanket mass apology works when say, you’re the Chancellor of Germany apologizing to the Jewish people. Or perhaps you’re a politician whose bad policies led the nation into an economic slump and you just now realized it.
 
But when the person doing the apologizing doesn’t have enough skin in the game, it can sound hollow. Or it doesn’t work if the apology is coupled with qualifiers, as in, “I’m sorry the economy is poor, but my predecessors are responsible,” or “I wish I’d been present in the home more while you were growing up, but the demands of work were heavy.”
 
We all mess up and need grace. The irony is that many of us are waiting to hand out grace if the apology would just come and if it were sincere. My guess is most of you reading this are either needing to apologize for something or are waiting for an apology.
 
Humility can be hard and sometimes if it’s there, we can’t find the right words. How about you – are you waiting for someone to apologize? Or is there a relationship where you need to apologize? What would it look like if you were to do it?

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