So this week, I am looking at one of the most “othered” of the reasons not to attend worship gatherings. Excuse Number Nine: “Someone at the place of worship hurt my feelings and never apologized properly.”
I do not deny hurt feelings. We do hurt one another. All the time. Much of the pain we live with was probably unintentionally inflicted. Nonetheless, there are clearly times when major disagreement, mispoken or unspoken words, and unresolved conflict rip relational fabric to shreds. Mending seems impossible. Furthermore, apologies themselves may fan the flames. “I’m sorry you took offense at that. I apologize,” is possibly the worst apology ever spoken, but I hear it often. The speaker takes no responsibility for any possible wrongness of his or her actions or words. The recipient is fully to blame.
Here’s a list I’ve made of other really bad apologies I’ve heard over the years:
- "I'm sorry you misunderstood me. I apologize."
- "Did I do something I need to apologize for? If so, please tell me."
- "I'm sorry your feelings are hurt. I hope you will forgive me."
- "I sure didn't mean to do something that would make you hurt. I'm sorry."
- "Please forgive me in advance for what I'm about to say."
- "I'm sorry I lost my temper/broke the ____ (you fill in the blank)/hit you. But if you had only listened to me in the first place, it never would have happened."
- "I'm sorry I wrecked the car. But you knew how upset/drunk/drugged I was. You should never have let me drive."
Do you see the “othering” in all these apologies? It’s pretty easy to recognize--everything is the other person’s fault.
When these types of conversations take place, healing becomes challenging. When these conversations take place within the covenant community of a corporate place of worship, the hurt compounds. We really do have higher expectations of those who identify as part of a worshipping community, and we should. So the anguish goes deeper here than in other places.
What now? One option: simply separate and drop out. We use the immaturity of others as an excuse, feed our anger and bitterness, and refuse to gather with others at worship with self-righteous justification. “If they were better people, I’d be there.”
Another option: Ask this question: “I wonder how many people I’ve hurt and don’t even know about?” How many “othered” apologies have I offered?”
Then there is the vital question: “How much grace do I want to receive?” Once that is answered, we stare at the corresponding question, “How much grace do I want others to receive?”
“Forgive us our trespasses (sins, debts) as we forgive the trespasses (sins, debts) of others.” These words form the centerpiece of healthy covenant worship life: the mutual giving and receiving of forgiveness. It is the hardest thing anyone ever does. By offering forgiveness, we forever set down the possibility of vengeance.
But by offering forgiveness, something else happens. Chains fall off, souls and often bodies are healed, relationships are restored, and the kingdom of heaven advances. What will you do with your hurts? Feed them or free them? Please know this: I don’t say this is easy. I do say the act of forgiving others is more God-like than any other human action. It’s time to set this things down and enter again into holy connection.