Teaching her son to say "I'm sorry" brought Meg Herriot a new appreciation of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Just two words, but sometimes so hard. Lawyers often say we should not say it. It can admit culpability. But sometimes, that’s the point. A lot of people struggle to say it in their relationships. I have a few relationships where there has been hurt, but never an apology. Some people grapple with saying it. I’m not sure if it’s shame, or pride, or what.
Our son said the other day, “I’m tired of saying I’m sorry! I’m not going to say it anymore.” I explained to him that saying “sorry” is part of being human. No matter how hard we try, we will commit errors and need to take responsibility.
Our son is approaching first grade and we are starting to catechize him about the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I told him he needed to play quietly so I could do an Examination of Conscience before I went to Confession that evening. He asked me what that was and I told him, “It’s where I sit down and think about all the ways I have sinned and failed.” “Oh, I can help you with that,” he immediately answered.
I was a little concerned.
“You sometimes yell at me and tell me I’m being naughty.”
Lest you think I’m someone who goes around shouting, “yelling” to my son simply means I’m saying words he doesn’t want to hear.
I thanked him for his help in finding my errors.
Sometimes people say their sorry and they don’t mean it. They are just words to placate. There is sometimes a difficult walk between making your child say they are sorry for something when there is no remorse. Just like when we say the Act of Contrition, we have to recognize that we hurt a relationship. Not that we are simply fearful of punishment but that we seek to sin no more because of love.
This is a difficult thing, even for adults. I need to remind myself when I’m teaching my son to say “I’m sorry,” that it’s not so much the words. It is tough to say "I’m sorry" because it requires something much deeper than words and I’m grateful that my son seems to realize this. I try to give him time sometimes when he is obviously not in a position to be remorseful. “Later on, when you calm down, you need to apologize.”
"I’m sorry" is not a knee-jerk reaction—it is a reckoning before the Cross.
May our children come to understand and appreciate the Sacrament of Reconciliation with the deep graces the Lord has given us.
Copyright 2019 Meg Herriot