Learning to Say "I'm Sorry"

On a recent episode of Friday Night Lights, Coach Eric Taylor (played masterfully by Kyle Chandler) apologizes to a player after snapping at him in frustration about an injury the player had been hiding from him during the season. Now if you've ever spent any time playing sports then you know that the idea of a coach apologizing to a player for anything is crazy.

Or at least it used to be. One of the shifts in leadership theory and practice is the belief that two simple words like "I'm sorry" are not tell-tale signs of weakness but traits of persons with enough intestinal fortitude to admit they're wrong at the risk of losing influence and authority. The magic trick, if you will, is that rarely does such an admission result in such loss; rather it does seem that people are far more willing to follow an imperfect leader who owns up to it than someone who is flawed but insists on maintaining an aura of perfection.

I'm not sure when I'll have to apologize (again!) to Lindsey, my boys, our friends, or to anyone (maybe even you!) in our church. But all I know is this - I don't have what it takes to own up to my mistakes without a liberal sprinkling of defensiveness and blameshifting. Which means my well-meaning apologies might not always come off the way I intend. So hang in there with me - and encourage people whose apologies to you come off as half-hearted by choosing to applaud the effort instead of chipping away at the technical failures.

This is the life the Holy Spirit creates in us - the ability to feel sorry, the courage to say we're sorry, and the perseverance to show that we mean it in the days that follow. Someday we'll never have to apologize to each other but until that good work is finished, let's not miss an opportunity to see God at work through an imperfect apology.

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