I have been reading Pope Francis’ book, THE NAME OF GOD IS MERCY. It is, in my view, an extraordinary book. Its voice is humble, wise, and compassionate, and the thoughts the voice conveys are the kind that stay with you, and lead you down paths of discovery. The book is a series of questions asked by a veteran Vatican journalist, Andrea Tornielli, with Pope Francis providing the answers.
In one section, Tornielli asks the Pope if there can be mercy without the acknowledgement of one’s sins. The Pope answers thus: “Mercy exists, but if you don’t want to receive it. . .if you don’t recognize yourself as a sinner, it means you don’t want to receive it, it means you don’t feel the need for it. . . .This is a narcissistic illness that makes people bitter.”
This made me think about two words that most of us say many times in our lifetime: “I’m sorry.” These words convey a message that we realize we’ve hurt someone, and accept responsibility for our words or acts. When these words are truly meant, something quite wonderful happens. Regardless whether the person we harmed accepts our apology, we feel inner peace, because our weakness has been overcome by the strength of honesty. We have faced the fact that we are not perfect, that we make mistakes, but that we can learn from them, and begin to find ways not to commit that mistake again.
I have known people who cannot say “I’m sorry,” as I’m sure you have. And I think that old devil pride might be the reason. By admitting they did something hurtful, they may feel that they have given the person they harmed power over them. When actually, when we say we’re sorry, we are gaining power over ourselves.