The six most powerful words (part one)

“I love you” is universally considered by most people to be the three most precious words they could hear from someone they love, or, in turn, say to someone else.

But as wonderful as “I love you” truly is, and as much as I have appreciated hearing and saying them to others, I do not believe, in my opinion, they are either the most important or the most precious. The six words I would rather hear from the mouth of anyone is “I am sorry, I was wrong.”

These six words have the power to bring heaven itself down to a troubled earth, to heal fractured and broken relationships, and to restore to wholeness bonds that have been ripped asunder due to selfishness, pride, and all other categories of sin. “I am sorry, I was wrong” allows the divine gift of forgiveness to begin its heavenly healing process of rehabilitation to oftentimes tortured souls wounded and even obliterated by the sins of others.

In essence, these six words begin the critical yet often overlooked process of repentance, the necessary ingredient of the healing process necessary to bring fractured lives back into harmony with each other, to the state of bliss that previously existed between them.

The word repentance is not common in our society today. In fact, think about the last time you heard the word; can you remember, or has it been so long ago that it has passed out of your memory? Worse, you may have never heard the word used even once in your lifetime. That would be unalterably tragic.

Repentance is defined as, “Sorrow for any thing done or said; the pain or grief which a person experiences in consequence of the injury or inconvenience produced by his own conduct.” I have taken this definition from the 1828 Webster’s dictionary. Please click on the link above to read the complete definition as it is illuminating.

Humans are not perfect; far from it. Our imperfect natures, our default modes, we might say, is to treat others in a less than perfect manner. We say and do things that are hurtful that cause other people pain because of our stupidity, insensitivity, callousness, pride, and general ignorance of the terrible power of words and actions to bring anguish and suffering to others.

When we say or do something that genuinely hurts another, a rupture occurs between us. This rupture is all the more pronounced if what we said or did to cause the rupture was done intentionally, with full knowledge of the consequence of our words and actions, and not due to simple stupidity or carelessness on our parts. In other words, we can behave in a hurtful manner toward a loved one without the intention of causing them harm, and the hurt resulting from this is much easier to deal with than experiencing hurt from someone who wanted to hurt us intentionally.

Regardless of our intentions and motives, these ruptures between people leave raw wounds on the souls of individuals that require healing to bring the shattered pieces of the relationship back into harmony. This restoration can only be accomplished through repentance and forgiveness, and “I am sorry, I was wrong” begins this oftentimes difficult and complicated process of bringing the frayed ends back together.

What is astonishing to me is this disturbing fact of human behavior: many people have never had these six words of healing pass across their lips. Like the proverbial bull in the china shop rampaging through the lives of others, these unenlightened souls run riot through the fragile existence of other people, both loved ones and strangers, oblivious to the carnage they leave in their wakes of selfish, self centered and destructive words and behaviors.

Loving someone who rarely—if ever— utters these six vital words, or worse, is unable to utter them, is hell on earth. You and the other members of your family living under the same roof with this individual are guaranteed to exist in a world of pain and suffering.

One of the most disastrous and untrue statements in fashion when I was a child was, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” It was popularized in a famous movie in 1970 called “Love Story.” To this day, I can still remember this tragic line from the movie; worse, I was brainwashed by it, believing it to be true.

Think about the above statement for a moment, trying to grasp its ramifications and meaning: it’s veiled and underlining meaning is, if true love is practiced between two people, lovers for example, each one behaves in a manner that nothing they say or do is reprehensible enough to cause pain to the other, thus, no need to ever apologize. “I love you so much I will never say or do anything to hurt you.” At least this is my interpretation.

In a perfect world with perfect people this might be true, but not in the world we occupy. And I’m sure there is a minuscule percentage of the population that are so spiritually advanced, so mature in their emotions and behaviors, so overflowing with true love, they might be able to act in such a manner that never requires them to say, “I’m sorry, I was wrong.” If so, we need to put these advanced souls in a living museum behind glass walls so all may come, study, learn, emulate, and marvel at their perfection.

Reality, of course, tells a different story: a broken world is populated with broken people who hurt one another in countless ways. Even well-meaning people slip up on occasion, unintentionally doing and saying hurtful and stupid things to one another that cause pain and emotional angst. And for all of these things, each one causing some type of injury to the other’s soul, fraying or breaking the once solid bond existing between the couple (or child, family member, friend, etc.), there needs to be a healing, a restoration, a mending of the broken hearts and wounded souls. This begins with those six words said in sincerity and a willingness to do whatever is necessary to heal the wounds of the suffering other.

Thankfully, my walk with Christ and desire to live a holy life and be reconciled to the Creator of the Universe necessitated a deep dive into repentance and reconciliation. The pages of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, are full of this divine process of sinful men and women arriving at a point in their lives of awareness of their sinful, fallen conditions and separation from God, and what He requires for His people to come back into intimate fellowship and relationship not only with Himself, but one another, human to human.

Interestingly, the more I learned of the divine process for reconciliation with God, the clearer my spiritual vision became to exposing the lie of “love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

This process has not been an easy one and is perpetually ongoing. One of the requirements necessary to come to the place in our soul life where we can even say to another we are sorry is humility and a degree of self awareness that we are flawed individuals prone to making lots of mistakes. Proud people, lacking sufficiently developed souls, cannot readily, if ever, admit they are wrong.

One begins to understand there is a transformational process that must occur in the spiritual, inner nature of anyone before they can say to someone else, “I am sorry, I was wrong.” Our innate pride, often hidden and lurking unexposed in the deep shadows of our personalities, must be recognized and brought to the surface to be decisively dealt with, a high bar to clear for many people who walk around believing they are the greatest and most noble creatures that ever walked on the planet.

The ability to admit to someone that we have wronged them is not “arriving at first base.” On the contrary, first base is reached when a man or woman begins to realize they are full of pride, selfishness, self-centeredness, and arrogance. Once this personal revelation is reached (and the process of getting here can be traumatic, complicated, and time consuming), we begin to view our behavior and the things that come out of our mouths through this enlightened lens.

For example, how many times have you woken up in the morning and made coffee for yourself? No big deal, right? But what if you are married, have adult children living with you, or guests over at your house, or other relatives…have you ever thought, “Let me make enough coffee for them as well” (assuming, of course, they are coffee drinkers)?

Think about how easy it is to, instead of making coffee just for yourself, you also make some for others. All that is required is to pour more water into the coffee machine and add more coffee. Simple, yes? Absolutely, and your loved one(s) whom you made it for will be thrilled that you thought of them and saved them the time to make some for themselves.

But some people are clueless about this. I know a “friend” who I’ve went camping with once or twice and he would get up, make himself a cup of coffee, and never consider that maybe I would want one as well. And the effort required by him to simply add more coffee and water to the pot was nothing. But he is so out of touch with thinking about others and so consumed with himself that he doesn’t even see it.

Now, is this a big deal? Of course not. I’m a big boy and can make my own coffee, but do you see my point? It takes self awareness of others and their needs and how something as simple as making enough coffee for both of us (blessing me and/or others in the process) can pull us out of our own self-centered, “it’s all about me” mentality. But “first base” of this process is first understanding how clueless and selfish we naturally are to the people around us.

I hope to explore more of this in a future post.