Absence of Grace

Discovering How Brutal People Can Be

When someone makes a mistake, then apologizes for it, as far as I’m concerned, it’s done. Chances are usually that I wasn’t angry to begin with, but if I was, a sincere apology does a lot to resolve my anger and any hurt feelings I may have had. I went into the ministry and into counseling (and onto social media) assuming most people were the same way.

I was wrong. Though a good apology goes a long way for some, it seems to have almost zero effect on others.

Even after 20 years of ministry, a decade on social media, and teaching and counseling for two decades, I am still often shocked and saddened with how graceless people often are.

I apologize if this sounds like I’m elevating myself above anyone else. That isn’t my intent. I don’t take any credit for the fact that I forgive easily. It’s just the way I am. I suppose I could just have easily been wired like one of those who struggle to forgive, and I have to remind myself of that constantly.

But on a psychological level, what’s going on with people who can listen to a heartfelt apology and still respond with bitterness, or as if an apology had never been offered at all? How many times must they  have been abused or betrayed? How jaded and cynical must they have grown somehow, and through what kinds of horrible circumstances? How many years must they have spent defending their own rightness and goodness, convincing themselves of their own invulnerability to mistakes, foolery, and hurtfulness to others?

In my experience, it is public personalities who absorb the brunt of this gracelessness. A person who might accept an apology from a friend or lover might find it impossible to accept from a politician, a pastor, a physician, or a school teacher.

When a public figure makes what seems like a sincere apology for something, and it seems to fall on deaf ears with so many, I must admit my first response is usually anger.

“Cut her some f**cking slack!!”

But quickly I realize I’m not really angry. I am hurt. I recall so many times this has happened to me, where my own motives have been questioned, where I humbled myself sincerely and became vulnerable and apologized profusely for something, but the other person was unmoved, even cruel to me in the face of my humiliation.

Not that I live out these episodes over and over again, that’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying I recall these events in my own life, and how painful they were, and I hurt deeply for whoever it is being done to now.

This post was inspired by the young Olympic athlete who is being savaged for not putting her hand on her heart during the pledge.

First, so what? People get excited and make mistakes. No biggie.

Second, she humbly apologized. Accept it and let it go.

Third, what the hell is the matter with you, this is a kid, at the highest point of her entire life.

How cynical and awful (and wounded) does it reveal a person to be when they are so easily offended as to find themselves incapable of showing a little grace to a child?