Have you ever noticed the differences in people’s notions of the apology? Over the course of my lifetime, I have had the unfortunate experience of an “apology” that not only demands my forgiveness but places blame on me. Do you know what I mean? My mother’s concept of an apology consisted of saying “I’m sorry you feel that way.” I received an “apology recently that stated “you took it the wrong way.” No, honey, I did not – not when you add in the details or the past things that you’ve said…
The Art of the Apology requires the person apologizing to ask for forgiveness in order to atone for sins, hurts, and pain caused. Not the other way around. Biblically speaking, God required three specific offerings before inviting Him into sacred space. These are the burnt, sin, and guilt offerings. The burnt offering is one that’s to be performed prior to every communion, no matter who was addressing God. Why was this? In-between the specific moments of prayer, we are surrounded by an influx of external things and people demanding our allegiance to some notion that may lead us ever so slightly from Him. Those external things may allow conflict within or place opposition without. Through the symbolic act of the burnt offering, it helps us to shed that opposition or conflict in order to re-align us with God.
A sin offering gives us an opportunity to confess any sins, a redemption for the soul. This differs from the burnt offering as these are sins that were either done intentionally against ourselves or another, or sins done without care for the results. These are choices that specifically violate ours or another’s selfhood, not a confusion of ethics that the burnt offering may elicit. In a sense, they act slanderous to God’s very nature, meaning telling falsehoods (false prophesying) about the world around us, as well as our own selves. Through the act of false prophesying (eg. telling ourselves “everybody hates me”) we create a false world, relegating our moral compass to external authority and abiding by its command instead of God’s.
Then, we have the guilt offering. Specifically, this violation destroys our covenant with God. It’s so heinous as to cause us to turn our face from Him. Murder would be an example. A forcing of someone’s ability to have choice would be another. In general, they are a violation of free will – the number one freedom given to us by God. It’s an active and willful consciousness in going against God.
In each of these three offerings, a requirement of our submission to God must be vocalized and atoned for. Even if you do not believe in God, think of Him as the Divine Self – both in ourselves and as reflected in the other. Atonement, or “at-one”-ment is about coming back into alignment with our divine selves through a state of acceptance or non-opposition. Apologies have the tendency to be unsupported without that divine sincerity. Words have power and without a deliberation of divine direction, we only have a dissolution of our covenantal union with the other. What I mean by this is that in every experience we have, we are being specifically asked to come into alignment and find non-opposition, aka the “love thy neighbor” idea. Anytime we’re in opposition, we’re in violation of that union’s covenant. Shame, or the dishonoring of the divine self, leads us to narcissism which is why it’s so important to empower ourselves with absolute truth. To command love, we must first love ourselves enough to require fidelity with our divine counterpart. Sincerity and honesty gifts us with God’s fellowship, leading us to will-choice. Without that, we are at the mercy of “external” authors of our lives, shutting ourselves off emotionally from authentic, heart-connected relationships. To apologize with sincerity, thought, and love honors both the self and the other, reinforcing and weaving that divine covenant, instead of unraveling it. We cannot expect, much less command, love, loyalty, union, acceptance, or authenticty if we won’t even offer it to our own selves.
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