In Part 1, I told you that I think we should be doing a better job saying “Thank you” as ministers and church leaders. If I knew how, I’d link back to that here. However, I don’t know how. If an editor does it, thank you for that…
Thank you ought to be often on our lips. Often enough to be known, but not so often as to be trite. I’ve two more words for you that ought to be infrequent from our lips. Here they are:
Now, some of you just checked out. Come back and finish the post before you pounce for me saying we shouldn’t say “I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry” should be infrequent from our mouths. It should, nay, must come when we truly make mistakes. More on that at the end. Here, though, are reasons why we should not constantly be apologizing to people:
1. “I’m sorry” becomes meaningless when we apologize for everything. Constant repetition makes it a nonsense response and it elicits no useful effect from people. If you apologize for everything, then you’re apologizing for nothing.
2. “I’m sorry” should not be used to evade responsibility. True, you may apologize to those harmed by the flooding pipes in the restrooms, but they really don’t expect you to fix those pipes. And if you were supposed to call someone about those pipes and didn’t, then your “I’m sorry” is really an attempt to evade responsibility. If you are constantly apologizing for not fulfilling your responsibilities, then it’s time to quit apologizing and start doing what you are expected to do.
3. “I’m sorry” does not cover willful incompetence. If you committed to handling sound for the wedding and then didn’t bother to learn how to even turn the board on, “I’m sorry” is weak. You chose not to learn. If you’re preaching every week and don’t bother to learn how to not be dull as a box of rocks, then “I’m sorry” isn’t enough. Step up and grow. If you find that you’re apologizing for not knowing how to do anything you’re supposed to be doing, maybe it’s time to find a different vocation until you learn. Take corrective action instead of just passing off an “I’m sorry” every other day.
4. “I’m sorry” ought not come sarcastically from your lips. Ever. It might seem like fun, but “I’m sorry you were too dense to understand” is unbecoming the minister. Yet we do this, and we do it far too much. We use apologies to mock those we apologize to. That should not happen.
5. “I’m sorry” can never come from deliberate offense and insensitivity. Why? Because we should not be doing so. I’m not talking about the “he didn’t hug the fluffy kittens enough” type of insensitivity, but the “he set the kittens on fire” kind. If you don’t know by now not to mock people or insult people from the pulpit or in the process of ministry, then you need to stay away until you grasp it. You’re there to be an instrument to build up, not destroy. All of those funny jokes about gender, ethnicity, intelligence? Let them go. There are ways to bring humor without insult. Use it.
6. “I’m sorry” should not be applied to God’s Word. It’s time to drop “I’m sorry that Jesus is the only way to God, but that’s what the Word says” from our vocabulary. Likewise the “I’m sorry, there’s nothing in here that allows you to divorce your wife because she burnt supper” or any other such statement. God does not need apologizers. (Whether or not that also applies to apologists is another discussion.) Do not apologize for the things which God has clearly said just because someone doesn’t like them. Otherwise, you are suggesting God made a mistake of the heart in what He said.
That’s not to say we shouldn’t apologize when we make honest mistakes.
In fact, that should happen whenever we do make them. An honest mistake should receive an honest apology. Every time. Without qualification or hesitation or any of this “I’m sorry you were offended” nonsense. If you offended, apologize that you offended.
But our mistakes should always be that: honest mistakes. Things that were unavoidable or unintentional. Not born out of incompetence or insensitivity, not spun out for our own benefit, but presented with a pure heart.
“Thank you” should come from us often, and “I’m sorry” should come every time it’s necessary. It just shouldn’t be necessary very often if we’re focused on the Word of God, prayerfully seeking Him, and guided by His Spirit more than anything or anyone else.