I have two children and as anyone with children knows you have to teach them how to behave, otherwise they will default to an instinctual level, which by the way is the level animals behave on, therefore, is it any wonder why many people in today’s society behave like animals, when they have not been taught proper behavior by those who were supposed to teach them – but I digress.
Teaching though does not mean a simple said once and done. Sure, you hope that by saying something once that other’s will get the point, accept, internalize and then utilize it, thereby making it their own so they now have actually learned it. No, teaching actually takes time, repetition, demonstration and testing to ensure it has taken root.
Out of all the most important behaviors to be taught to children is the concept of acknowledging one’s own mistakes and making restitution for them. We often teach this concept through the simple phrase we train them to say when their behavior is less than stellar: “I’m Sorry.” We try to get them to say this phrase to the person that they perhaps have offended in a way to have them both acknowledge that what they did was inappropriate and to try to make restitution for any hurt feelings that may have occurred.
One thing I have noticed in attempting to teach my children about the importance of this process is that while they may understand the mechanics of it, that is the proper words to say and the order in which to say them, that the emotional connection or the truth behind the words is often missing or misused. How can I tell when this occurs? Easy, when they have been reminded of the proper behavior, they may utter the words but then a few minutes later they wind up doing the same inappropriate thing once more.
While you might be tempted to think that this might be relevant to only my kids, let me gently remind you that we all are guilty of this at times. Since we are all human beings, we all make mistakes. The only difference arises as this: some are determined to learn from their mistakes and others are bound to repeat them. The question then to ask is straightforward, to which group do you belong?
Hopefully, we all want to be a part of the group that learns from our mistakes in order that we don’t have to repeat them. Mistakes after all can be painful, emotionally, mentally, physically or even spiritually. Here’s one more known fact about all human beings: we like to avoid pain. Hence, if we can learn from our mistakes, we can attempt to minimize our pain.
Therefore, it is to our benefit to truly understand the reason for acknowledging our mistakes. It is in the acknowledging that we pause for a brief moment to recollect the events, the words or the actions that created pain for others and/or ourselves and having identified them we then link them to the internalized message that we shouldn’t do it again. However, if we don’t have the internalized emotional connection to the pain, we won’t associate our behavior with the resulting pain, and its then that the words may roll easily off our tongue that we are sorry but they truly lack substance.
This is the reason the Bible reminds us of these things:
“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12 KJV
“Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.” 2 Corinthians 7:9-10 KJV
You see, when we simply go through the motions of apologizing there is no real change. Repentance after all simply means to change and we only change when we are emotionally prompted to because we know it will make us better in the long run. This is the whole heart versus head dilemma. If we only act from our head, knowing that we should, then there will be no lasting effect because our heart was not in it. However, if we act only from our heart without an understanding, we can be easily manipulated. We need both our heart and head engaged to truly effect the necessary changes we crave.
This is again why scripture declares:
“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” Matthew 22:37 KJV
Hence, God is prompting us to be engaged entirely with heart and mind which makes up our entire being, i.e. our soul, in order to learn and grow here in our world. And true growth can only be measured by testing. So as long as we live here on this earth, we will have trials and difficulties and yes we will make mistakes. Therefore, I would like to encourage you today to think for a moment about the state of your own head and heart. Have you been out of balance, employing too much head and not enough heart by being too brash, grumpy, argumentative or stern with others? Perhaps you’ve leaned too much on heart, operating out of intense sensitivity, emotion or selfish desires. Well it’s time to get in balance by taking some time to first connect with God in prayer, and letting Him speak to you about how to bring things in balance in your own life by perhaps reaching out to someone close to you with a sincere “I’m Sorry”.
God Bless! - Rick