If you were to ask my husband about my biggest flaw, I can guarantee he will say that I apologize too much. I apologize for things I do and do not do, or have control over. When he tells me I don’t need to apologize, I will apologize for apologizing! I attribute this quality to the fact that I was raised to “be polite”– there was only “yes” in our house, no “yeah” and ALWAYS “yes/no sir/ma’am.” If we did something wrong, we were expected to take ownership of those actions and apologize.
The reason this is a “flaw” for me is because I believe I have control over a situation which I did not, or that I meant to do something wrong when I didn’t actually mean to do it. I give myself too much credit in thinking that I could have done it better than whomever “did it wrong” and too little credit when I shrink away and think my best isn’t enough. Apologies are appropriate in many cases, but can also be inappropriate and may cause more trouble.
I hear apologies from churches almost weekly.
I’m sorry so many are missing…
I’m sorry the space isn’t better…
I’m sorry we can’t do more… be more…
I’m sorry for their actions or words…I’m sorry… I’m sorry… I’m sorry.
If you ask me, I would say that the Church’s biggest flaw is that we apologize too much (I guess it takes one to know one, right?)
There are so many things out of our control– people do and likely will miss church on holiday weekends (and I honestly support that if it means they are catching up on the just-as-important family time), the size and appearance of your worship space, office, or fellowship hall means so little in the bigger picture, the “not so great” choir is making a beautiful and joyful noise, and each and every one of us gathered is a beautifully flawed child of God who is still figuring things out… It is okay.
These apologies frustrate me because it seems as if those apologizing may not see their value as a congregation or do not think that they are enough when it comes membership size, budget size, building size, and appearance. Apologies regularly come in light of comparisons to another congregation that the person seems to see more value in. They focus on the negative (that might not have been noticed, even!) rather than on the positive.
What if…We are so sorry that no one will be here today…
Turned in to…We are so excited about those who are joining us today!
If I could share one single message with every congregation I spend time with, it is simply that you are enough. Each person gathered is enough. The roof might have a leak, or half of the congregation may be away on vacation. Maybe the keys were lost and we can’t get into the office or the sound system crashed. However, we are gathered together through the grace of God to praise and celebrate that same God who is with us every step we take. We will make it through worship by that same grace, no matter who is there or what goes wrong; no matter what you think you have to apologize for.
I wonder, what would the Church look like if we quit apologizing for the things we cannot control and began acting and changing the things we can like feeding the hungry, embracing the lonely, and loving one another the way that Christ loved us?
What are you tempted to apologize for in your own congregations?
What action can you take instead of apologizing?
Rev. Jordan B. Davis