Grappling with apologies for Lent

Dear President Trump,

Today is the first day of Lent and so once again it’s time to work on letting go of an indulgence or habitual sin. I’ve been giving it some thought and what I’ve decided to work on is not engaging in reflexive, empty apologies. I rather doubt this is a behavior you engage in or can relate to at all (mostly because I don’t think you ever apologize), but it’s one that a lot of girls and women have been entrained to. Many, many of us toss off utterances of “sorry” and “oops, sorry” multiple times a day in response to the smallest things that only the most pathetic boy or man would pseudo-apologize for.

Reflexive apologies are not especially sinful, though if one is being insincere I suppose it could count as a lie, but that’s still pretty much a stretch. At first blush it also doesn’t really seem like gender-freighted apologies are an indulgence; they are conditioned conversational tics that smooth things over quickly and ways to cope superficially with insecurity. However, I think it is at least a little bit self-indulgent to casually toss off a mindless “sorry” since it short-circuits the uncomfortable processing needed to understand and change whatever the underlying issue might be. Basically, these sorts of apologies are like little Band-aids that I habitually slap on when I want to cruise past how I feel.

On the flip side, I also plan to use this Lenten season to pay closer attention and to work to be more genuine when I do have something real to apologize for. We’ll see, but I actually think this is going to be harder for me. Hanging in with the feelings of guilt, and perhaps shame, associated with transgressions is challenging. Plus, when a real apology is offered (or a fake one, for that matter), it may or may not be accepted by the other person and so it’s risky to put it out there. For this part of the effort I’m going to have to both catch myself when I want to rush through a needed apology as a means to the end of receiving absolution and when I find myself staying quiet and pretending I didn’t do anything to hurt, harm, or inconvenience someone that needs to be acknowledged.

May we be safe to be vulnerable with real apologies.
May we be willing to not cheapen apologies by offering them reflexively.
May we cultivate a healthy relationship with our shortcomings.
May we give one another and ourselves grace and peace.

Tracy Simpson

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