Picture a little girl: her rosy cheeks are hidden by a dirty face, muddy nails and messy hair. Her lips are pressed together and she’s holding something in her hands. She pulls her mom’s skirt and looks up with pleading eyes to present a white daisy saying, “Mommy, I’m sorry”. Doesn’t your heart melt at the sight? What we didn’t see is that same sweet girl throwing a temper tantrum minutes before when her mom asked her to stop digging a hole in the flower bed.
We all have those “temper tantrums” in one way or another, when we were little we had no reservations throwing ourselves on the ground, kicking and yelling. Now we have more “mature reactions” like ignoring, gossiping, exploding, and these days simply “deleting” from our “friends list”.
Why is saying sorry so hard?
Tantrums, even “mature” ones, demand apologies. Sometimes it hurts our pride to go to a person, who might think we’re perfect, with dirt on our face and muddy nails.
Why do we always want others to see us as perfect? The only true experience we have is ourselves. We experience that we fall everyday. We do what we shouldn’t and we don’t do what we should. We are not perfect. So why the show?
Every person who has walked on this earth, except Our Lady and Jesus, has the experience of falling into something they didn’t actually want. This is the wound we bear caused by original sin. So, if no one has ever been born perfect, why do we think we are the exception to the rule? And, on the other hand, why do we expect others to be perfect?
Knowing we are not perfect and that others aren’t either, makes life a lot easier. We all have setbacks, and we all give into those tantrums and this is when we should say “I’m sorry”. It’s okay and even necessary to go back with dirt on our faces.
The little girl won’t do a good job cleaning her face and nails, if she doesn’t let her mom do it. Sometimes the only way to wipe that dirt off your face is to let someone else clean it. Asking for forgiveness helps clean the mess.
Saying sorry to others
When we commit a fault against others, it is usually a “grown-up temper tantrum”. Sometimes, we may have a valid reason to be angry but there are those other times when we know deep down that we overdid it. Even though inside we feel remorse, our own self-image that will do anything to be preserved, objects to having to go with a dirty face to apologize to someone.
Experience has told us, if we are simple and prompt to say sorry the storm will pass faster. The more we dwell on it, the bigger deal it becomes.
It’s important to apologize even if we didn’t mean to hurt someone else, or didn’t even realize. This is where the power of forgiveness shines. Forgiveness saves relationships. A lack of forgiveness weakens them.
Saying sorry to God
What happens if we need to apologize to God? If we fall and sin against him, what can we do? Naturally, we want to excuse ourselves (remember: we think we are perfect!), and we push God down at the bottom of our priority line. But this is when our conscience comes to the rescue. A little voice tells us something isn’t right. This is when you go and say you’re sorry. As Catholics we have the enormous gift of the sacrament of Confession where God humbly listens to those words he longs to hear, “I’m sorry”, so He can say to you the words you long for, “I forgive you. Keep going.”
Saying sorry to myself
We’ve drawn out some good evidence about our human condition. We are a work in progress on the road to holiness. Although we’d like to be a rosy cheeks Gerber baby, we all know the reality of being that girl with a dirty face and muddy nails.
To forgive ourselves we must accept ourselves, not with discouragement or resignation; but with hope. The more I know myself and accept myself, the freer I will be so I can better myself.
On a good day, we try to come back a bit cleaner, with less dirt to be scrubbed off. Some other days we splash in the dirt puddles. But when we say we’re sorry, forgiveness heals and strengthens, ourselves and others…it cleans up the mess.
Remember we are all children of God. Try to see with God’s eyes. No matter how much dirt covers us, he always sees what’s underneath. He doesn’t see the dirt, he sees the daisy.
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