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I’m Sorry

Posted by Roberta Grimes • July 13, 2019 • 30 Comments
Human Nature, The Teachings of Jesus

One of my first legal clients gave me the most important professional advice I have ever received. In fact, it has turned out to be some of the most important advice about life there is! This young salesman was an astonishing ball of energy, so wound up that he couldn’t sit down so he spent our meetings stalking around my office, looking out windows, reading my diplomas, picking up and studying tchotchkes from my desk, and talking stream-of-consciousness.

I don’t remember his name or much else about him, but one moment remains vivid in my mind. He was establishing a manufacturer’s rep that sold some sort of industrial equipment, and as was my custom I asked him to tell me more about the business, his career, and his dreams. He was in the process of doing that when he paused mid-sentence, looked at me, and said, “When I get a new client, I pray something goes wrong. Do you know why?” Of course, I had no clue. He said, “When something goes wrong, I get to apologize. Then I get to rush in and fix it. That hooks them! I’ve got a client for life.”

I was just starting to work with clients at the time, so what he said that day made a big impression. I began to notice who apologized and who didn’t, and I began to work on establishing a habit of always apologizing myself. I was astonished to realize how difficult developing an apology habit actually is! But I kept at it. I wasn’t representing a manufacturer that had goofed up a client’s order, but there were times when I had done less than my best. It doesn’t matter whether people are angry, or whether they even know you’ve slipped up: coming right out and saying you are sorry can be hard to do at first. But the habit became so ingrained in me that it was only after Thomas had given me our topic for this week that I first even thought about it enough to realize that my apology habit seems never to have caused me any problems at all. In fact, it seems to have been a significant contributor to my professional success. I also think now that it helped to lay the groundwork for my later spiritual life.

Developing a strong apology habit is a wonderful spiritual exercise!

Apologizing requires you to confront your ego, and each time you beat it you soften it more until your ego seems almost to give up trying. Here is why:

  • Apologizing makes you feel weak and exposed. If you admit you made a mistake, will your client ditch you? Might your client even sue you? I never had either experience in my more than thirty years of practicing law, but it certainly could have happened. I do think, though, that your being contrite and eager to fix the problem you inadvertently caused helps to soften whatever the consequences might have been otherwise.
  • Apologizing feels like inflicting harm on your own self-image. You’re not as big an expert as you thought you were! Not if you could make such a foolish mistake.
  • Apologizing puts you in a situation you cannot control. A big part of being a professional is being able to manage your clients. But the minute you say, “I’ve got to apologize for doing X when now I feel I should have done Y, and this is how we’ll need to fix it,” then your client’s reaction and any resulting fallout will be beyond your control.

And in your personal life, apologizing feels even riskier! Will your spouse forgive you, or will s/he feel betrayed? Is it better to bury your mistakes so they won’t put your personal relationships at risk?

As is true of developing a gratitude practice, apologizing goes against our ego-based and self-protective grain. And the wonderful thing about that is the fact that our repeatedly beating down our small-minded human tendencies makes it easier for us to eventually vanquish them. Remember, too, that apology is the flip side of forgiveness, and forgiveness is a core teaching of Jesus. It’s the prelude to learning more perfect love! In fact, your apology is a spiritual gift to the person you have wronged, because it then confers the greater opportunity to learn and apply ever better forgiveness.

I am coming to realize that maintaining a strong apology habit may be just as important to our spiritual development as is maintaining an attitude of gratitude.

Here is how you can best begin to make apologizing a central part of your life:

  • Be alert for apology opportunities. Take as your example my young salesman client, who was trying to find something to apologize for in every new client situation! Our instinct has been to try not even to notice what we ourselves have done wrong, but my own experience was that it soon became pretty easy to override that ego-based reluctance to apologize. And the responses from people when I said I was sorry were generally so positive that before long the habit of apologizing turned out to be self-reinforcing.
  • Keep it simple. Our ego-based instinct is to elaborate, to explain, to justify ourselves, and even to lay some blame on others; but saying anything beyond the fact that you are sorry and you will fix the problem is likely to make you seem devious.
  • Apologize even when the person receiving the apology is more at fault than you are. Whenever I do this, people are all over me, eager to assure me that whatever happened wasn’t my fault at all.
  • You might ask for forgiveness, or you might not. My own instinct now is not to ask for forgiveness because whenever I have done that it seemed to bury the apology. But if it is very important to you that a close friend or family member express forgiveness, then go ahead and ask for it in that one case. In reminding the people we love of the necessity for us always to forgive when someone wrongs us, we are helping to reinforce for them the perfect Gospel teachings of Jesus.

What did Jesus say about apologizing? As is true of gratitude, apologizing is not specifically addressed in the Gospel words that have come down to us, but as is true of gratitude it is certainly implied. Indeed, both gratitude and contrition are at the core of everything that Jesus taught. Take, for example, The Lord’s Prayer, which is the way Jesus suggests that we communicate with God. He urges us to say:

“Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen”
(MT 6:9-13).

I would argue that nearly every word of The Lord’s Prayer is an expression of gratitude based in the trusting certainty that God will continue to supply all our needs. And what is “forgive us our debts”? It’s an apology in all but name. Please note in particular how relationship-based this whole prayer is! Forgive us as we forgive others. Your will be done as our earthly needs are supplied. We ask not just that you avoid tempting us, but also that you let nothing else tempt us. Just as is true of gratitude and apologizing, The Lord’s Prayer is all about building and strengthening this essential relationship.

There is a Gospel passage, too, where the notion of apologizing and thereby being reconciled with others is expressed explicitly. Jesus said,     if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison(MT 5:23-25).

We cannot know what more Jesus might have said that was not remembered and passed down for the couple of generations before His words were first committed to writing. My hunch is that He may well have talked about both expressing gratitude and apologizing, since these attitudes seem to be so foundational to everything He said that has come down to us. It may also be that in the younger times in which He lived, people were less ego-driven than moderns are, and were both more grateful and more careful about healing their relationships than we are now.

Gratitude and apologizing are core relationship elements that assist in the work of breaking down the boundaries between ourselves and other people.

The Gospel teachings of Jesus are a mechanism for rapid spiritual growth, but the fact that they have been largely ignored for the past two thousand years suggests that they are not an easy and automatic machine. Rather, they are more like a seed. And Jesus told us that explicitly! He said of His teachings, “Behold, the sower went out to sow; as he was sowing, some seed fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate it up.  Other seed fell on the rocky ground where it did not have much soil; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of soil. And after the sun had risen, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. Other seeds fell into the good soil, and as they grew and increased, they yielded a crop and produced thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold” (MK 4:3-8).

Until we have prepared our minds by developing practices of gratitude and apologizing to others – two habits that weaken our egos and strengthen our relationships with other people – we are offering to the seed of the Lord’s perfect teachings mostly stony and unproductive soil.

 

Salesman photo credit: Bestpicko <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/157089461@N07/41390102202″>Businessman in Suit</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>

Crops photo credit: jack cousin <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/52822484@N03/47999169986″>Rural panorama.</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a>

Roberta Grimes

Roberta Grimes is an internationally recognized expert on death and the afterlife. Learn More

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30 thoughts on “I’m Sorry

  1. This is salesmanship 101. Which leaves me to question the sincerity of his “sorry”. He uses sorry to “hook” clients so I find this to be another cleaver tool. I’ve also noticed that the word “sorry” is used a lot in mindless ways like when someone bumps into you instead of “excuse me” it’s “sorry.” I have a friend who brings this to my attention as I unconsciously use it and says to me: “Just how sorry are you?”
    Which is not to say Jesus’ teachings lack any validity but this comparison you make has me scratching my head………

    1. I guess it probably is a good salesmanship tool, but it was news to me! And dear Mary, if it breaks down the barriers between people, then it is a profoundly important tool, no matter whether or not it also helps you sell widgets. What does the people he is helping care about whether or not he is truly and grievously sorry or whether he is just a successful salesman? All they care about is whether or not he gets them what they want!

      I was an attorney for the owners of closely-held businesses for 35 years, and among all the 500 or so businesses that I worked with over the years I found only one owner of a business who was not a good, honest, sincere guy who took wonderful care of his employees. Only one jerk in the bunch! And his business eventually failed. I think now that where closely-held businesses are concerned, only the people who truly care about others can stay in business for long. The bottom-line lesson here is that apologizing builds and strengthens relationships. And building and strengthening relationships – learning to ever better love and care for others – is the literal reason why we come to earth at all!

      I told that story only because it was how I first learned that apologizing is a good thing, not a bad thing, and what got me into doing it in the first place. I think now, though, as I consider your point, that it doesn’t really matter whether you are hoping to strengthen the relationship – whether perhaps you aren’t only “sorry,” but you hope to make things better between the two of you in general. Why should it matter? All that matters is that you are doing what you can to break down the ego-based barriers between people. Your alternative to apologizing when you do something wrong is to self-defensively refuse to apologize, and that only builds those barriers higher.

      p.s. Wow, you have a cynical friend! I think he needs more hugging. Please give him a hug from me?

  2. Thank you for this, Roberta! I have been urged for years to say the Master’s prayer as an expression of gratitude, rather than as an “ask.” Jesus even says, your Father knows what you need before you need to ask, so pray THIS way…

    He isn’t saying here’s how to put in a request, He is saying it’s already granted. The English language is different from Jesus’ native tongue, Aramaic, which was a more nuanced language, similar to Sanskrit, I am told. In the original Aramaic, the words are not only a Thanksgiving, but an affirmation of the Oneness of Creation! Very amazing stuff!

    For those who want to hear a beautiful rendition of the Aramaic put to music, here’s a link:

    https://youtu.be/ROM5EpCQUlg

    1. Wow, Mike, thank you so much for that! I have felt somewhat ambivalent about Aramaic because direct translations of the Gospels from Aramaic into English are so different from the Gospel words we receive in two-step modern translations, but that is really beautiful!

      One thing I didn’t say, but that follows along from what you’ve said here, is that in fact The Lord’s Prayer can also be seen as a gratitude affirmation, which is the most effective prayer method of all because it comes from abundance and not from lack. When you say, “Please God, give me this,” you are affirming that you don’t have something. But when you say, “Thank You, God, for giving me this!” you are saying that you already have it – God is now manifesting it. Rather than using the power of your own mind to affirm the lack and the need, you are adding the power of your own mind to the power of God to manifest whatever it is that you need. Makes a tremendously more powerful prayer!

      Hearing the words that Jesus actually said – the sound and shape of those words – is immensely moving. I think I’ll listen to it again….

      1. I have been shown that Aramaic and Ancient Greek each had much in common with Sanskrit, so the first translations into Greek work fairly well. Alas we will not know in this lifetime all the He said and how He said it at the time, but it may be more important to remember that He was addressing 1st century people in ways they related to, but He is still speaking to US in other ways that WE can relate to–and not always through written or spoken human language.

        1. Wow, that is so profound! I have had this thought myself – that what Jesus said then worked then (well enough that after his early death, many of those He had touched embraced His teachings to the point of martyrdom), and it actually works even better now. As you point out, the Gospel teachings have ever deeper layers of meaning. We never seem to reach the end of what they can teach us!

    2. Woah, Mike, what an amazing rendition of the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic! Thanks for this; I can’t describe how I felt hearing it.

      I did hear the Hebrew roots in it, and as you say, Aramaic is similar to Sanskrit. Kinda where Hebrew and Sanskrit meet, really. (A bit like my own guide and me.)

      I hope everyone listens to this beautiful song/prayer. This alone takes one to Spirit and away from ego.

      And I get what you are saying that our request is already granted. To approach the Divine through the love and trust of knowing our needs are already granted, will really bring us closer.
      Thank you for this. 🙏🏼🕊

  3. Between the translation problems and being watched by the Council of Nicea, not to mention having to address the people in ways they would understand, and things added or subtracted by those in power, it would be close to impossible to figure out the real meaning. Anything he may have said regarding reincarnation, for instance, would have been completely eliminated. What a great way to introduce fear-based thoughts. They could have easily done this, and I know they must have.

    1. Wonderful points, dear Lola! This is why the only way we really can know what Jesus said is by consulting the genuine experts, the not-really-dead. What we call “the veil” is thinning, so suddenly now more and more of us are in close and live contact with our guides, and that is making a world of difference! Our guides have always been guiding us, and in my case Thomas began to prepare me to do this work in early childhood. But he broke into my daytime life less than five years ago, and now he actively guides me in all that I do. Mike has Arrow. Scott’s guides are making contact, and I hear from other people now whose stories are often amazing!

      Yes, the earthly authorities built a fear-based religion around the figure of Jesus, but the wonder is that the teachings of Jesus were preserved at all, and preserved so accurately! The dead tell us precisely what He said and what He didn’t say, and even what it means. Liberating Jesus is His own view on that subject. And the fact that it is the two-step modern translations that they all are now claiming means that those modern translations were literally presided over and directed by Spirit! Yes, the human religious authorities have often been frankly venal, dear Lola, but fortunately God is always in charge.

  4. Thanks Mike. It was beautiful hearing the Lords Prayer sung in the language Jesus used. It kind of sent chills up and down my spine. I would also love to hear it spoken in Aramaic, in a male voice, to really get the feel of being there as he spoke.

    I’m also intrigued by the idea that the one step translation to Greek worked for Jesus’s time, and the two or three step process has worked better for our time. Maybe that was his plan all along.

    1. Dear Scott, what I come away with is the strong suspicion that this whole game is intensively rigged to produce precisely the environment in which we can grow the most spiritually. If you were training a cage full of laboratory rats to be geniuses, you would greatly enrich their environment, and that is what is happening in our environment as well! It is all designed to give us the greatest possible opportunities for spiritual growth. It’s all good. And the more we are able to glimpse the greater reality, the more gloriously good we can see it to be!

  5. Every story you send lifts me up.thank you so much. Roberta, is there really an afterlife? My soul yearns to really know – knowing is what I need.

    1. Oh dear Millie, thank you for commenting!

      Yes, there is indeed an afterlife. In fact, it is impossible for your mind to die: you are eternal, you always were and you always will be. But the most wonderful part of the truth, of course, is the fact that you are loved so much! There isn’t just a home to return to after our hard day in this school is done, but there is a loving eternal Family, lots of hugs and milk and cookies and eternal sunlight through the kitchen windows. And even more than that, there are circus ponies on the front lawn!

      The more you learn about how reality works, the more it will make sense to you. And helping you to be absolutely certain, and to relax with joy into that certainty, is the entire purpose of my life! So ask me anything. Read my books (I can email PDFs), listen to Seek Reality, and begin to inhabit your eternal birthright!

  6. I had a friend who said sorry all the time for the slightest things, and that got to be a bit annoying. I felt she was unsure of herself.
    But certainly, if we have made a mistake of any sort, it should not be that hard to say sorry and mean it. I do it from time to time, and it is no big deal.
    Even if you have a nagging feeling that it is not all your fault, you can still say sorry and clear the air, then all parts can get on with things.
    The salesman is the type to be aware of in my opinion, if you can see through him. It might have worked for him, but it never came from the heart. Heart is more important than scheming of the brain, unless you are a politician or a salesman!

    1. Dear Gerda, until a couple of people mentioned here that apologizing could be in any way negative, it frankly never occurred to me that was even a possibility. To be frank, in my experience it is indeed difficult to apologize in the professional world or in a situation where that apology might damage a close personal relationship, so if in your experience apologizing is easy then clearly I have been running with the wrong people!

      As for people whose constant apologizing is an irritation, I haven’t had that experience either but if someone I knew was “over-apologizing” I think it would be a kindness to spend a little time with that person and try to kind of jolly him or her out of it. “You’re a terrific guy, Frank, and people love you just as you are – I think it’s wonderful that you want to apologize so often, but you know what? It’s really not necessary!”

      I guess the one place where I disagree is in your thought that an apology that doesn’t come “from the heart” is of less value. To me, all apologizing helps to break down the barriers between people, so all apologizing is valuable. Breaking down those barriers even more and helping all people to come together a bit better is, after all, a primary reason why we even incarnate in the first place.

  7. Hello All, Margaret here, new to Roberta’s site. An honour to be so. From a child I always had problems in saying sorry, partly because I was expected to do it all the time. Now, I have sorted that one out, fortunately. Re, Aramaic, the Lords prayer, when translated from that language, is so poetic, exquisite. Sends me soaring. Prayer, for me, always is saying thank you, not just because I might need a request for myself, but I always give thanks for being who I am, what gifts are given to me daily, which firstly are my family and opportunities to serve. Blessings to all, Margaret.

    1. Hi Margaret, I am not much of a linguistics scholar, and I can’t trace the provenance of that translation, but my guide brought me right to it when I started researching. I am learning to take her hints, although the hints of our guides may be different for each of us depending on what we are working to accomplish. Still, that translation from original Aramaic resonates with so much else that we know about creation and consciousness that I feel it is tested by inference. One might want to do more research if so inclined. But as is stated in other comments, the message of Jesus teaching is clear enough through the modern translations we can currently read.

  8. Dearest Roberta,
    I guess that I’ve always felt that the ways of God are like a tree growing. Or a plant of some kind.
    If one walks in nature, or tends a garden, one can see this. It may take watching for a while; a kind of silent ‘being with’ nature. It’s then that deeper things occur to the understanding.

    You know Roberta, the very next day after reading this week’s post I had a living example of saying sorry.
    I was in a Government office, attempting to get details entered into their system. The data entry clerk was having trouble with doing this, as the system (skewed to rigidity by internal security algorithms) would not cooperate. It kept locking the clerk out. This lovely girl kept saying sorry to me! With each new computer obstruction she apologized. The cumulative effect was almost comical…
    Of course I reassured her that I understood and that I was happy to wait as she worked on it, but the feeling that I felt inside was warm, kind and the sympathetic to the clerk’s difficulty. Then I realized what she had given me on the inside:

    The girl had given me a sense or worth. She was aware of my value as a person and her kindness manifested this. Instantly, I was on side as it were. She and I faced the implacable system together. We shared the experience without being at variance.

    So I see how much ‘worth’ saying sorry gives to the receiver, as it basically says ‘you matter.’ It’s kind, even loving at times and establishes joint humanity. This is bound to deny the ego the chance to reinforce its separation from the other.

    Roberta, I do see that “forgive us our debts” in the Lord’s Prayer is saying sorry and it sits right next to “as we forgive others’ debts”.
    So to say sorry and forgive others are parts of the whole principle of a forgiving heart.
    Thank you for this deep insight as it is bound to make the soil of my mind much richer!

    1. Oh dear Efrem, what wonderful points you always make! I do see that apologizing is another way to say to the person you are apologizing to, “You are important,” and I really should have said that above.

      I do feel strongly, too, that apologizing and forgiving go together. Apologizing and forgiving are how we break down the barriers between people, so they are the literal basis of rapid spiritual growth. All wonderful, dear Efrem!

  9. I guess all apologies are ok if needed, even maybe done with hidden regret, or a business sale in mind?
    So, I apologise to you!!!

    I remember some groundbreaking apologies I have made years ago, and only good has come out of them.
    I tried to follow Jesus when he said we cannot pray to God with unresolved conflict.
    How true this is.

    With time it got easier for me to say sorry, whether to family, friends or strangers. What have I got to lose except a bit of pride, and that is good to get rid of!

    My friend who apologised all the time was a bit under the thumb of her husband. But she had a lot of other good things going for her and I praised her for them.

    Often we make mistakes that we only become aware of later, but better a late apology than let others harbour ill will because of it.

    Thanks for making us aware of this important thing in our lives.

    1. Dear Gerda, bless you! I love it that you are sharing with us here your own spiritual journey – I’m sure that some who read it will identify with it and be helped by it. Thank you!

  10. Dear Roberta. I was in sales for 12 years, and though I loved and used the product, the only reason I lasted that long, I hated the “salesy” stuff they wanted us to do. Apologizing was never part of it though, because we were the “expert consultants.” I’ll never go back to that world, and am much happier making less money in the relatively low level job I do now. As I told you, my focus at this stage of my life is on other things. One thing some of the discussion of sincere vs insincere apology makes me think of is the idea of truth, or “Honesty is the best policy.” (As long as done in a kind way, which reminds me of the old “How do I look in this dress, Dear?” dilema.) Jesus didn’t really discuss apology as far as I recall, so maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I wonder if he was partly getting at this issue when he said “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” By avoiding truth, apology becomes increasingly humiliating and guilt-ridden – all the better to get it out of the way in this life than in the afterlife. The more we live in truth, the less loaded apology becomes, just fixing simple accidents, and that is such a lighter and nicer way to live, rising to that higher vibration we are all seeking.

    1. Dear Scott, we are all made so differently! Personally, I soon came to see sales – most small businesses are in sales at some level – as a wonderful way to be helpful to others. You are making it easier for them to get something they want or need, and you are doing it with a smile and lots of support: early in my career, watching expert salespeople at their work soon felt to me like watching love in action. But if you saw it differently, then of course it’s good that you are now doing something else!

  11. Afterthought: re car insurances it is advised not to admit fault at accidents, as the insurance companies will be the judges, and it will affect your payout!

    And recently I read about a patient who had the wrong (the healthy) kidney taken out.
    “Oops, sorry, my fault.” I am not sure what will happen, but sorry hardly covers it!

    The more I think about it, the more exceptions come to mind.
    But since I am a nobody I can keep saying sorry when I have done something wrong!

    1. Dear Gerda,
      I know this human world can treat us as nobodies, by its emphasis on fame, external beauty, money and power.
      But this is a lie.
      You are unique in all creation; a shining soul and beloved of God. And the real you will live forever. How much more wonderful can you be !! 🙏🏼❣️🎇

    2. Oh my dear Gerda, as Efrem has said before me and much more beautifully than I could, you are far from a nobody – you are in fact God’s best-beloved child!

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