I often communicate about the power of our words. Words, both written and spoken, posses a raw innate power to dramatically alter the course of any outcome for good and bad. History provides us with some pretty clear pictures of such instances. Roosevelt’s speech after the Pearl Harbor attack, JFK’s inaugural address, the movie The King’s Speech, and Martin Luther King Jr’s I have a dream speech are just a few examples that continue to gift us with images and memories of times both triumphant and harrowing.
Additionally, it’s easy to weaponize our words, wounding others with them and even easier to weaponize the lack of our words, inflicting a whole different kind of injury.
Consider these 2 exercises.
First, try to remember back to the first time someone you loved dearly told you they loved you back. Think about how that felt? Try to remember the details. Where were you? What were you wearing? What were the sights, sounds and smells? I bet you can remember every little thing about that experience.
Second, think back to a moment when you were wounded by someone’s words. Something may have happened and you just needed to be reminded of your worth. You just needed to be told you were loved or gently reminded that everything would be ok. Ask yourself the same questions above. What stands out to you from this memory?
Moments and experiences like these create markers in our lives. Those markers are what shape our stories and give us clues into our own hearts.
This is precisely why I no longer say the words “I’m sorry” when seeking forgiveness.
And lets face it, I’m a guy and have to do this often! Too often I’m afraid.
The words “I’m sorry” are far to easy to say. They carry almost no weight and frankly cost very little to say. We say we’re sorry when we bump into someone in a mall or when we accidentally get in someone’s way. We say we’re sorry when we forget to hold the door open for the person who sneaks in behind us, or when we laugh out loud in a library. We say we’re sorry to the trite and trivial but when we find ourselves needing to ask forgiveness, the words “I’m sorry” simply just aren’t enough.
Think about it this way.
You’ve been crushed. Your heart is in pain and someone has just wounded you dearly. What would you rather hear in that place; “I’m sorry” or “I need your forgiveness, would you forgive me?”
The words “Forgive Me” carry a whole different weight. They invoke a different context, a disarming context. They communicate an understanding of what was made wrong, and a need for it to be made right. Healing is made possible because of this.
And wouldn’t you rather be a part of the healing process instead of hindering it?
Tim Keller writes an awesome article on Forgiveness, Healing and Reconciliation here. I won’t try to summarize it because I could never come close to do that well, but I love how he says it comes at a cost and is at the very heart of what it means to be a christian.
We all make mistakes. We all cross boundaries. We all hurt and wound others with our words, but next time try being intentional and using the words “forgive me” instead of “I’m sorry” and see what happens.
What do you find yourself saying more often “I’m sorry” or “Forgive me?” What would you rather hear?
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