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Sorry Doesn’t Know How to Count

I have no idea where she picked it up, but my daughter has begun to answer my son’s apologies with the phrase, “Sorry doesn’t know how to count!” She may have made it up. Wherever she got the phrase from, she does not seem to understand what it should logically mean. To her it means something like, “I don’t accept your apology.” In reality I suppose the phrase should be concerned with grace, with saying, like Jesus, that we should forgive an infinite number of offenses.

I have been teaching the children about apologizing. One thing I have been trying to help them understand is that there are two words that do not belong in a proper apology: “if” and “but.” Just the other day I saw a situation on television where a person said, “I’m sorry if I offended you.” I don’t think that is a real apology at all. There is something objective about an offense. Either the person offended the other or he did not. He should not, then, apologize if the other person was offended, but he should apologize that the other person was offended. So I am trying to teach the children that, before they apologize, they should know who they offended and why that person was offended. They will then be able to make a heartfelt apology – an apology based on the knowledge of their own poor behavior.

I have also been teaching them that an apology does not include the word “but.” We all know these apologies. “I’m sorry I did that, but…” The “but” is simply the person’s way of showing that while he may feel apologetic he is not truly so, for he clearly believes that the fault really lies with the other person. “I’m sorry I smacked you, but I wouldn’t have done it if you hadn’t taken my toy.” That is no apology. Again, an apology is an acknowledgement of a transgression against some objective standard. Regardless of why my child sinned, he should be able to see and understand his own guilt without blaming the other party. This sounds an awful lot like Adam’s protest when he said to God, “But the woman you gave me…”

So there we have it, two tiny little words, but ones that may prove an apology to be anything but sincere.


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