"HOW SHALL WE THEN LIVE?" Francis Schaeffer

Monday, January 08, 2007

Unfeigned Repentance

Joan Foster of liestoppers.blogspot.com has a terrific post on the rightness of true repentance versus false repentance.

" Gone to the Dogs
When my son was around seven, he was told to apologize to his sister for some transgression.

"I'm sorry," he said. "I was wrong, but it was your fault."

With that early potential, and without a lot of parental intervention . . . who knows . . . he may have grown up to be a reporter for the NYT, a talking head with his own "legal issues" show, the editor of The Durham Herald-Sun, or the President of Duke University. I guess my husband and I didn't realize he was on track to greatness, when we stifled his first instincts to "quibble" (as my husband calls it), and required that he be accountable for how his words and actions affected others. When you are wrong, you say you are wrong . . . simple as that. It used to be called "accountability" . . . a quality not much in vogue these days. Obfuscation or better yet, avoidance . . . represent the current "Repentance du Jour."
My own father had an additional take on "accountability." He believed that true contrition carried its own power. When I once complained . . . in words similar to those I would hear from my child many years later, . . . he explained, "You're not apologizing for her. You're apologizing for YOU." It took me years and some maturity to understand that. A true, sincere, and unencumbered apology not only embraces the recipient, but also enhances the giver. It conveys a kind of moral stature - that this individual, flawed as we all are, has the courage to make a public and ethical course correction. This kind to courage . . . to self-monitor, to self-examine, and to reveal one's strength by admitting one's weakness . . . is rare. Sadly, the Art of the Apology is not in much evidence today. Maybe, we need to add it to our children's general curriculum, or at the very least, insist it be a required class in every journalism or law school.
My father believed the venue for an apology needed to match the venue of the offense. No private apology was acceptable for some transgression witnessed by others. Instead, you offered your Mea Culpa over the meat and potatoes, while the rest of the family looked on. Once learned, this technique had its own absolution. I always left the dinner table feeling, not demeaned, but delighted that my parents were now proud of me once more. To this day, a mistake I make in a meeting, I feel obligated to correct in a meeting. I will apologize to my children in front of their friends. The Art of the Apology has served me well. I am rarely burdened with old regrets. M. R. Vincent sums the concept up in this quote:

"Mere sorrow, which weeps and sits still, is not repentance. Repentance is sorrow converted into action; into a movement toward a new and better life. ""

That is so very excellent

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