Saying sorry

11th September 2020

Have you noticed how people in the public eye say sorry – or don’t say sorry – for what they’ve done?

We saw an example last Sunday night, when Novak Djokovic was disqualified from the US Open tennis. He lost a service game and, in his frustration, he took a ball from his pocket and hit it behind him. The ball struck a line judge in the throat. It was clear he didn’t mean to hit her. It was equally clear he’d broken the rules and had to go, even though he was the favourite to win the tournament.

He later posted an apology on Instagram, in which he said: “This whole situation has left me really sad and empty … I’m extremely sorry to have caused her such stress. So unintended. So wrong … I need to go back within and work on my disappointment and turn this all into a lesson for my growth and evolution as a player and human being. I apologize … for my behavior … I’m so sorry.”

To his great credit, he did say sorry. It’s a genuine apology. And we should bear in mind that English isn’t his first language. What’s interesting is when he says, “I need to … turn this all into a lesson for my growth and evolution as a player and human being.”

It’s good that people want to change and become better people. At the same time, it’s easy to play down the wrong we’ve done in a desire to move on quickly. So, we speak of ‘making a mistake’, or ‘having a lapse’, or ‘making an error of judgment’. It quickly becomes about what I’ve learned rather than what I did wrong.

One of the most refreshing things about the Christian faith is that we can come clean, and be made clean. We can admit to what we’ve done wrong, our ‘sin’ as the Bible calls it. We can say, in the words of the Book of Common Prayer, that “We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, And we have done those things which we ought not to have done.”

We can do so in the knowledge that there is forgiveness in Jesus Christ, a forgiveness which is full and free, because when he died he paid for our sins. As the apostle Paul says: “through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin.”

It’s not wrong to speak of mistakes made and lessons learned, but isn’t it far more satisfying – and necessary – to be able to speak of sins committed and forgiveness received? Because in the end it’s not just about us. It’s about God, and our relationship with him.

Chris Hobbs