When you can’t apologise, when you can’t ‘say sorry’—as we taught our boys when they were little—what a mess things become!
Were you the one in the wrong? You don’t think so. You think it was ‘the other guy’? And he’s not willing to apologise, and so you shouldn’t have to? He’s weird anyway, as he usually is. Not quite right in the head. That’s why it doesn’t bother you to talk about him behind his back. After all, who is he to you, really? Just a nobody and a nothing. You were just putting up with him, helping him out in bad times. Now it’s all over. Goodbye and good riddance!
I wonder how much of this kind of thing goes on inside us ‘behind our backs.’ I know that’s a funny way to put it, but I wonder just how much we let ourselves ‘off the hook’ when it comes to personal relationships. Perhaps this is where ‘the rubber meets the road’ in the life of a Christian. We think it's better to ‘just say nothing’ and maybe the problem—or the person—will just go away. Of all that can go wrong in our lives, this is about the worst.
When we know we're right, all that matters to us is who is wrong. We hold ourselves aloof from our neighbor as though from filth. And why? Because he deserves it! This happens between friends and neighbors, but worse yet, it happens between members of the same family. My only brother, for example, has cut off all contact with me for over thirty years, and without even letting me ask him why. This is not a complaint, but a lament. Yet, life goes on.
The way I was brought up, one didn't worry so much as to who was right or wrong in a situation. We were taught to apologise quickly, to restore peace between ourselves and another. We were expected to put the relationship above the reputation. But teaching and even personal example can't be passed on, despite all our best efforts. People seem to almost want to be offended so they can justify themselves in pursuing revenge, even if it is only to ostracise.
Lord, I do not understand it. I do not understand. How can anyone have such hatred for their neighbor? their brother? their parent? Who is the enemy here? Who has offended? Who has done harm? We say we walk in the footsteps of Jesus, but in truth we don His robe and want to snatch up the crown He did not want but traded for thorns, so that we can sit not at His right and left—no, it gets worse even than that!—so we can sit in the judgment seat.
We want what we want, and if we cannot have it, someone must be to blame, anyone, just as long as it is not ourselves. We put ourselves first at all costs, banishing fear of God and replacing it with our righteous rags, little realising that salvation or damnation lies with our fellow man. As the bible and the fathers teach, he who loves his fellow man, truly loves him, will be saved, but he who hates his neighbor has never seen life, and never will. He has killed himself.
Sorry is not just a word, but a condition, a state of soul. To be sorry is to seek peace with all men whom we may have offended without knowing it or intentionally. To apologise in words and actions is impossible unless we are sorry within. Of all the places where we can lose, we lose the most here, when we pretend to be sorry, but within reserve the right to murder our brother with everything that is in us. Who needs a knife? Even so soft a weapon as the tongue will do the trick.
Lord have mercy on us! Without our brother we are lost, and true are the words handed over to us by Holy Church, ‘You can be damned alone, but you cannot be saved alone.’ Teach us to count how few days we have left, Father, to love and serve You in humility, loving and serving the people around us, being sorry for ourselves and them, for our having offended You. Give us time to repent, so that in falling behind we can be found running ahead.
Running after You, running after Jesus.