I believe it was the pop singer Elton John who at least sang, and perhaps penned the phrase, “Sorry seems to be the hardest word.” I differ with Sir Elton on many things, but I think he had this one thing right. “Sorry” does seem to be hard for people to utter.
How often have you heard it said, “If they would only just say they were sorry!” A simple admission of guilt, of responsibility or accountability, goes along way. Another word for that, scarcely used any longer, is “contrite.” Few are the people who admit any level of contrition these days.
The simple step of contrition, of admitting guilt or complicity, flies in the face of our more desired virtue, that being pride. What prevents us from voicing that simple word is generally our pride. We wouldn’t want to risk being embarrassed or seeming as though we “don’t have it all together” so we put on a strong front and fail to acquiesce to that very simple yet powerful emotion – contrition.
And, it’s something that God desires of us, above any other sacrifice. In Psalm 51, a prayer uttered by David when he was confronted over his extramarital affair with Bathsheba and his ordering the subsequent murder of Uriah, David explains that God doesn’t want our burnt offerings externally, but would rather an internal offering of the heart. He says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:17).
I am writing this article on Ash Wednesday, a day in our church year set aside just for that kind of contrition. It is a day probably first commemorated in the eighth century to mark our need to prepare for the feast of Easter. However, the prescribed preparation was one of contrition, symbolized by the adorning of one’s self in ashes as a sign of our sorrow for our sinfulness and fallen nature.
So my appeal to you in this Easter season, whether it is spoken to your spouse, to your children, to your parents, to a coworker or a neighbor, do the hard thing. Say you’re sorry, when appropriate. And most importantly, remember that it’s the one sacrifice God desires from us: that sorry, contrite heart he will not despise.