“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have said that. I shouldn’t have treated you that way.
I really thought I was doing the “Christian” thing.
Truth is, you acted more Christ-like than I did.
I was sure I was right. I thought that’s what the Bible taught.
Again, I was wrong. I’m sorry.”
I’ve said those, or similar, words in the past. More than once. I’ve also had them said to me. Apologies are a part of life. If they’re not a part of your life, then you’re not being genuine. No one is so perfect as to never need to apologize. You were wrong, Erich. Love almost always means having to say you’re sorry.
Still, an apology is not always enough.
Apologies usually focus on an act. A behavior. A specific event. But if we don’t look deeper, we will sooner than later be right back in the same situation, offering a similar apology.
“I’m sorry I owned you as a slave. I know now that was wrong, even though I thought God was OK with it. Of course, you’ll still need to drink from your own fountain.”
“I’m sorry I made you drink from your own fountain. I know now that was wrong, even though I thought God was OK with it. Of course, you’d still better not marry a white woman.”
“I’m sorry I said you couldn’t marry a white woman. I know now that was wrong, even though I thought God was OK with it. Of course…”
So, I finally realize a specific act was wrong. I even acknowledge that the reason for my act was a false belief. It was a sincerely held belief. It was a belief I defended with holy writ. But like false beliefs defended by holy writ for centuries past, it was wrong.
Thankfully, I now know I was wrong, and I truly, humbly apologize.
And then it happens again.
It totally amazes me how many times someone can realize a sincerely held belief was wrong, and still be so very blind to the fact that there’s every likelihood they are right now doing the same thing with one or more of their current beliefs! How can a person repeatedly admittedly be wrong, and not acknowledge the possibility of still being wrong?!?!?
I’ll tell you how. In a word: Certainty.
When I was a part of institutional religion, we were very fond of saying we had “a relationship, not a religion.” We would then allow almost every word of our mouths to prove us liars. What we really had was a very dogmatic system of beliefs. Our true faith was not so much in Christ, but in whether or not we believed the “right” things. We had to be right, and we had to be Certain! More than once when I strayed outside the accepted parameters of belief, I was made to feel lesser. And I’m 100% sure I did the same to many others.
“You can’t have that picture. You can’t wear that shirt. You can’t listen to that music. You can’t believe this. You can’t believe that.”
“Don’t. Don’t! DON’T!!”
“Here’s what you need to know. And then, you need to know that you know that you know. Yes, I believe in science. But if science contradicts the Bible, then science is wrong.”
Translation: If science contradicts my very limited understanding and application of some ancient text, then science is wrong.
Deeper Translation: If facts interfere with my beliefs, I’ll ignore (and even fight against) the facts.
Now, back to the apology thing.
I’ve apologized for my act, based on a false belief. Hell, I’ve even apologized for the belief itself.
And, GOOD NEWS, in this case, I’ve Even Changed My Belief!
The problem is: I Haven’t Changed The WAY I Believe!
All those many, many times I’ve been sincerely wrong have never been allowed to teach me the root of the problem!
In a word, Fear.
Fear that if I acknowledge some particular truth, my entire belief system may come crashing down. All my beliefs are part and parcel of the fabric of my religion. If so much as one thread unravels, I could lose it all!
Fear that if I let go of certainty, I’ll wander aimlessly with nothing of value to hold on to. And for fundie Christians, the very unhealthy kind of “the fear of God.”
Look, if facts destroy your belief system, I’ve got news for you: It needed destroyed! If having a wrong belief about God, about eternity, about Jesus; if any of that pisses off God that much, you need a better, bigger God!
Also the fear of your peers. I know people who are so afraid of what their peers will think, they avoid acknowledging truth if it comes from the “wrong” source. God forbid someone should think I agree with “that” person. I don’t want anyone to think I’d lead them astray!
Certainty is the enemy of faith. And changing what you believe, without changing how you hold those beliefs, is of very limited benefit. And by the way, the basics of what I’m saying here doesn’t just apply to right-wingers, or just to Christians. It goes for Muslims, Atheists, Jews… EVERYONE.
I know, I know; I use this quote a lot.
But it’s just so damn good! And honestly, learning this important lesson can, I believe, even transform many strained relationships. It’s from “What We Talk About When We Talk About God.” And I’ll end this post with it now.
“You can believe something with so much conviction that you’d die for that belief,
and yet in the same moment
you can also say, ‘I could be wrong…’
This is because conviction and humility, like faith and doubt, are not opposites; they’re dance partners. It’s possible to hold your faith with open hands, living with great conviction and yet at the same time humbly admitting that your knowledge and perspective will always be limited.” – Rob Bell