Once, I was on the phone with my son, when I suddenly realized I had forgotten to tell him that his Aunt Eleanor had died. I was just three days late, but Eleanor was his beloved mother’s sister, and held an honored position in his heart.
There was silence, which I chose to fill with some lame excuse as to overall busyness. The silence continued. I gave him a lengthy discourse on the many duties of my days.
“Dad…why can’t you ever just say you are sorry?”
I continued my busyness diatribe defense until I drilled it into the ground. Now -- I was quiet. Was he right? Yes, he was right. Why am I simply not apologizing for failing to contact my son until three full days after his aunt had passed. Even then, with full awareness of my own failure, I still offered a limp pathetic apology.
“I guess I should have called sooner. I am sorry. I didn’t mean it to hurt you.”
“Yes, Dad, it hurts that you forgot to tell me something you knew would be a fairly significant event in my life, but, what hurts more, is that you have such a tough time saying you are sorry. By the way, you expect me to apologize within minutes of such an infraction.”
I hesitated. Rummaging through my memory for times when I swallowed a grievance whole, and never got an apology. I came up with none. Justin is good at forgiveness. He does it spontaneously, and with seemingly no difficulty or need to think it through. He is amazingly quick at offering up – “I am sorry!”
“Justin. You. Are. Right. I will work on that, I promise. You would think, that as a pastor, forgiveness would be second nature.”
“Are you kidding? I have been around the church my whole life Dad, and I have rarely witnessed a collection of people more reluctant to admit a mistake, let alone say they are sorry. Mom took so many hits, it drove me nuts. I don’t think I ever heard anyone say they were sorry to her, even when they treated her like crap.”
It was true. Christine had been the victim of a good deal of bullying and badgering. She was incessantly being told how and why she did not measure up to male pastoral standards. How she was too powerful, too liberal, and way too verbal. I had never realized the degree to which her poor treatment had impacted her young son.
“How about you, have you ever gotten an apology from someone who attacked you for whatever…? I mean I have never thought of folks from the church as role models for forgiveness. Sorry, but that is just not my experience.”
“A few times. I have to admit it, though we claim a faith in Christ, we Christians often feel we are immune from the need to ask for forgiveness. I wish I could defend the church, but in this case, well, I think you make a good point.
Anyway, Justin, I should have called. I could have called. It should have been a priority. You deserved better.”
“There, now was that so hard?” Justin asked snidely.
“Yes!” I responded in matching snideness.
Then we both laughed at the sad disturbing truth of it all.
Reverend William R. Grimbol has spent the past 30+ years helping people create and develop strong spiritual connections with loved ones and God. He is also a published author, with over a dozen books to his credit.