It’s sad, (so sad) so sad
Why can’t we talk it over?
Oh, it seems to me
That sorry seems to be the hardest word.

So sang Elton John nearly fifty years ago. Apart from anything else, looking back with the distance of fifty years to the 1970s makes me so old!

Is sorry actually the hardest word to say? Sometimes! Not least because to apologise is to admit publicly to our colleague, friend, partner our own vulnerabilities and weaknesses, and laid bare for them to reflect upon is the exposed chink in our armour. Recently at the Crypt I intervened in an incident at lunchtime where two people (shall we say) didn’t see eye-to-eye. One of our friends had taken exception to another and things for a moment looked like they could spiral out of control, so in waltzed the chaplain to shepherd the aggressor away. In those moments I pray to the Saints that the unspoken rule continues that it is generally bad form to punch the vicar and especially a vicar who wears glasses! Prayer is good but I also have the confidence that comes from being part of such a brilliant team here, for I know we all have each other’s backs. Like with the majority of these occasional moments, with time and space between our two friends, the lunchtime meandered on in much a calmer fashion.

This week and out of the blue, the principal aggressor came to see me in the dining room and offered me a humble and sincere apology. It meant a lot to me and particularly on that day, struck a deep chord, because in our prayers that morning we had been talking about Jesus’ advice on forgiving from the heart. Simon Peter asked Jesus…how many times must I forgive another member of the church…seven times? I wonder if Jesus reply of seventy-seven times was a shock to Peter? Possibly, because as Jesus says, this repetitive and constant attitude of forgiveness from the heart, comes with no ulterior motive or expectation that we won’t be the victim again or the behaviour repeated. It is also forgiveness even in the face of no apology.

Very different from my experience this week, where our friends apology was offered freely and from a place of deep sorrow and sincerity. Giving an apology is a good thing. It can not only invite the wronged person to forgive us, but also opens the way for us to make a much harder decision, which is to forgive ourselves. Which is just as important. If we reflect on the two greatest commandments that Jesus highlighted to the lawyer, they were to love God and to love our neighbour as ourselves. It seems to me that compared to loving God and loving our neighbour, actually the concept of loving ourselves and forgiving ourselves is a much harder decision of the heart to make.

Dare I then suggest that sorry might be easiest word to start that journey…

By Rev Andy Muckle, St George’s Crypt