It should be no surprise to anyone, but I am not perfect. I am not even always nice. And since I have been married and my decisions have come to intimately affect another person, there have been times when I have made mistakes and have needed to apologize. I must admit that I am in no way an expert, but I am continuing to learn things about the nature of relationships and how to apologize.
One of the biggest things that I am realizing is that an apology needs to be honest and heartfelt. You’ve got to mean it if you apologize and want it to mean anything. Too often, even when I want to apologize, I find myself thinking that fatal word, “But”. I think to myself, “I’m sorry, but ….” and I finish that sentence with some attempt at a justification for how I was behaving. And that attitude is exactly wrong when trying to honestly apologize. I need to learn to set my “buts” aside, and apologize without any hesitation or justification or anything. I need to be able to apologize without still holding onto any feeling that I was still right. A true apology is one that is simply, “I’m sorry for how I was acting, or for what I did, and I sincerely hope that I do not do that again.”
I was thinking about this today during our Elder’s Quorum lesson, which was discussing the mighty change of heart mentioned so often in the scriptures. A mighty change of heart is exactly like an apology, it must be sincere and it must be without hesitation or regret. If we truly experience the mighty change of heart that comes with repentance and acceptance of the gospel of Jesus Christ, then we need to completely change who we were and become a new creature, we “put off the natural man and become a saint through the atonement of Christ” (Mosiah 3:19).
One point that was made during our discussion, after mentioning scriptural examples of changes of heart, like Alma the Younger, Saul/Paul, the people of King Benjamin in Mosiah chapter 5, we talked about how we would often like to have such an experience. One grand event in our lives that we can always look back to, an immediate change of heart moment that is so fantastic that we couldn’t possible go back to being the way we were. But that’s not the way it usually happens. in our lives it is only after a long period of time, when we look back, that we realize how much we have changed, how far we have come.
And once we have experienced a mighty change of heart, we need to remember what Alma asks in chapter 5, “And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a change of heart, and if ye have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, I would ask, can ye feel so now?” That is the question we need to ask ourselves everyday. We need to not only experience a change of heart, we need to maintain a change of heart. There is no easy way, no fast lane to heaven, this life is all about making the daily decisions that move us closer to God.
We need to learn how to forgive ourselves and others, and how to apologize and mean it. We need to make those choices that change who we are. We need to put of the natural man and become saints. The gospel of Christ is all about changing who we are and making us better, making us Christlike, and that cannot happen if we are still holding on to pats of our past self, some of our pet sins that we don’t want to fully give up. It takes a truly humble person to apologize correctly, but that is exactly what it takes when we approach our God to ask forgiveness. We need to honestly and simply and truly be sorry for our sins and have the wholehearted desire to never commit them again. If we lay aside our pride and allow the love of God to work in us, this is very possible but it does require a very large effort on our part. For me, I am going to start with the way in which I apologize to my wife and those around me. I will strive to do so honestly, without any “buts” or reservations, sincerely trying to improve myself and be different than I was.
That is what I will do. What will you do to be come closer to Christ? What will you change in your life to be more like Him?