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SORRY, NOT SORRY

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Apologies are all the rage in the business world these days – at least talking about them – who owes one, who is offering one, who did a good job, whose apology was worse than the thing they did wrong. Facebook has been under fire lately for data breaches, business leaders for harassment, airlines for mishandling (or manhandling) passengers – and rightly so. When someone, or even some business does wrong, an apology is the start to doing better next time. 

However, far too many apologies boil down to “sorry, not sorry.” As Christians, the standard for our own apology tours is much higher.

Target Marketing, one of the enewsletters I get at work, has a Friday video segment call WWTT – What Were They Thinking? – about marketing “wins” and “fails.” Recently, they featured Facebook in a segment called “Facebook Apologizes … Sort of.” Here is a link to the video - http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/video/what-were-they-thinking/wwtt-facebook-apologizes-sort-of/#ne=b4691fce4a848ee3bb0b5aeaaed78cd2&utm_source=today-%40-target-marketing&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=2018-04-27 – and one to the Facebook “apology” – https://youtu.be/Q4zd7X98eOs. 

Here is a link to guidelines for email apologies from businesses who have had security breaches or unexpected downtime: http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/article/6-b2c-email-apologies/#ne=b4691fce4a848ee3bb0b5aeaaed78cd2&utm_source=today-%40-target-marketing&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=2018-05-07

I haven’t followed the entire Facebook apology tour. So, Mark Zuckerberg may have given a more appropriate apology at some point. 

I think there is a lesson or two to consider in the current focus on and these recommendations for apologies, because Christians, in my opinion, ought to be masters of the sincere, heart-felt apology. Not because we have a lot to apologize for, but because the very nature of Christianity is one of humility, honesty, appreciation of just self judgement and focus on love. These are critical ingredients of an apology that brings change.

Micah 6:8 [NIV] advises us on the top priorities for God’s people: He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

When we act justly in all interactions, we are much less likely to do something or say something requires an apology. We will think “Is this appropriate? Is it loving? Is it merciful? Am I acting from humility or pride?” and all sorts of other questions before speak and before we act. We seek to do the right thing always. There will be fewer apologies that way. 

To act justly means that we will focus on just behavior, doing what is good and right, but also that we will recognize when we don’t. 

But what about when we do speak or act sinfully or hurtfully and an apology is warranted?

To love mercy means that we will be quick to apologize, make amends and change wrong behavior. Matthew 5:25 [NIV] encourages us to be quick about it: Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison.

To love mercy means we will be quick to know we need it. Lamentations 3:22 [KJV] [It is of] the LORD'S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. When we have a passionate love of mercy – that is, when we are enormously grateful for the daily mercy and forgiveness we need from God – we will also be quick to grant it to others, knowing that it is required in order to be given that mercy ourselves [See Matthew 6:14-15]. 

When we walk humbly with God, we will be more open His correction and the Holy Spirit leading us to see where we need to apologize to God and to others. When we are humble, we won’t let pride get in the way of a sincere and honest apology. I believe pride is often exactly what gets in the way of a sincere apology and can even make things worse. A mistake may be a “stumble,” but pride can take it to a complete fall. Proverbs 16:18 [NIV] Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

In the article above about email apologies, the author, Heather Fletcher picks up this advice from Julie Morse: “Morse cautions that brands shouldn’t push off blame with phrasing like, “We’re sorry this happened to you.” The Target Marketing journalist, Melissa Ward, encourages Facebook to take responsibility for its actions and “actually fix something.” Ward also points out that the apology ad talks about how good Facebook was “but then something happened” without acknowledging that they were the ones who caused these things. She says, “Apologies don’t mean anything when you keep doing what you are sorry for.”

Years ago, when I took a training class for my job as receptionist, one of the things they taught us was how to apologize without taking responsibility. This is necessary, as a receptionist, or a customer care representative or even a waitress, because you are going to take the heat for things you didn’t do, just because you are the one the unhappy customer can easily reach. 

However, in any situation where I have actually been the one who wronged someone else, the advised receptionist response of “I’m sorry you are upset” is not appropriate because it does not acknowledge my wrong actions, which caused the upset, pain, or unhappiness in the first place and it doesn’t give me any impetus for change. 

A heartfelt apology is evidence of walking humbly with God, in that we acknowledge the wrong we did – that we are at fault, and that we need to change. It is an act of seeking mercy, in that it includes asking for forgiveness. It should include acting justly, in that we make amends and we make changes so it doesn’t happen again.

As Christians, we don’t apologize for keeping the Sabbath or speaking out against sin. But we are required to quickly apologize, from the heart, when we sin against God or our fellow man. I don’t know about you, but the more I grow as a Christian, the more God shows me where I need to apologize, make amends and change.

Yes, there is a lot of focus on apologies these days – in the business world and in the news. It is a good reminder for us Christians that the right practice of apologizing – apologies from the heart – are an important part of our Christian walk and are evidence of following Micah 6:8.  Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God and recognize the need to apologize.

I welcome any comments and questions or comments you’d like to share.  You can write to me at Nancy@DynamicChristianMinistries.org.