The Power of I’m Sorry

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The Power of I’m Sorry

As a dad, I say “I’m sorry” a lot. Probably every day. Multiple times a day. This shouldn’t have surprised me, but this is one of the things about being a dad that caught me off guard. I thought good dads just never messed up, or at least, only occasionally messed up towards their kids. Needless to say, I was pretty discouraged when I learned the truth about fatherhood—the truth that it is hard and filled with mistakes, riddled with 20/20 hindsight, and constantly suffering under the brokenness of sin. It took a few years, but I eventually gave up on being the “good” dad who rarely made mistakes towards his children. It’s not that I tried to be impatient or unfair, I just came to grips with my own sinful heart and how it plays out in parenting. And that’s why I’m so thankful for James 5:16. It writes, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” As James talks about what it means to be a follower of Christ, he doesn’t tell people, “Don’t mess up!” James tells us that when we falter, confess and seek forgiveness. As I allowed this truth to inform the way I grew into fatherhood, I realized that there is something powerful in confessing and apologizing to my children. Here are three powerful reasons to make saying you’re sorry a regular part of your parenting strategy.

  1. It’s God’s prescription for a broken world.

When I’m wronged, there is a longing in me for the person who wronged me to apologize. This is not a selfish impulse, but rather a God-given desire for relationships to be mended. Our kids feel that same desire. When they have been wronged, there is something in them (whether they know how to vocalize it or not) that longs for that wrong to be made right. They know when you’ve treated them unfairly. They know when you’ve made a mistake toward them. As a Dad, I get the opportunity to take the initiative in mending the pain I caused in my children. I get to meet that longing of reconciliation. If my kids had a fever, I wouldn’t withhold medicine. When I’ve done something wrong to my kids, withholding an apology is no different than not giving them Tylenol when their temperature is rising. Confession, repentance, and forgiveness are the prescription God gives for broken relationships, and as a Dad I get the privilege of caring for my kids in that way.

  1. It’s a natural way to teach them an unnatural response.

It is not natural to own our mistakes. I know for me, my gut is always to defend and justify my actions, which usually only serves to blame the offended for the offense. I’m really good at doing this with my kids. I have to practice the discipline of apologizing. I have to stop my natural inclinations and do something that is consistently unnatural. The irony is that I expect my kids to treat owning mistakes and apologizing like it’s the natural first response, and let them have it when its not. If I’m not making a regular practice of apologizing to my children but instead constantly justifying my actions to them, why would I expect them to do the same? As a dad, I get to model, naturally, the unnatural response of saying, “I’m Sorry.”

  1. Because it’s the only honest way forward.

One of the greatest weights I carry is the fact that my kids see the worst of me on a regular basis. Since we’re most comfortable at home, often times we let down our guard and can be, candidly, pretty nasty. This is a weight I feel because I know that my kids will learn more about faith at home, watching how my wife and I act, than they will at church or any other religious context. If I could be perfect, I would. But that’s not really a possibility. Because of that, the regular practice of confessing my sin to my kids and seeking their forgiveness is the only honest way to model a practical faith at home. Mistakes aren’t necessarily the enemy of faith, but hypocrisy is. My hope is that my kids will grow to walk through their own faith with honesty, which means walking through it as James writes, confessing and forgiving one another.

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