Michelle Martin

Say you’re sorry

Sunday, July 10, 2016

We were getting out of the car in the Jewel parking lot after day camp one day when Teresa announced to me, “Sometimes when I do something wrong, I say I’m sorry to God. Just quietly.”

I was a little puzzled; she hadn’t done anything wrong at the moment, as far as I was aware, and we hadn’t been discussing behavior or apologies or anything that seemed to connect. But I went with the topic and said that was a good thing to do.

“But you also have to say you’re sorry to the person you did something wrong to,” I said.

“They deserve to hear you apologize, and for you to do what you can to make it better. And say you’re sorry to God, too.”

She agreed that all that was a good idea, and we moved on to buying food for dinner.

Two days later, when I picked her up from day camp, she seemed fine until I asked how swimming was that day. Then she said, “Can we talk about in the car?”

When we were in the car and I was buckling her seat belt, she said, “Can we wait until the windows are rolled up and the doors are closed so no one can hear?”

Once the doors and windows were closed and we were pulling away, I asked again, now very curious, what happened at swimming.

“I had to sit out for two minutes,” she said.

“Why?” I asked.

It was, apparently, because she didn’t have a pool noodle tied around her middle like she was supposed to, and she didn’t get one the first time the lifeguard told her to.

“I didn’t listen twice,” she explained.

I said OK, that happened, but now she would remember to listen to the lifeguard and everything would be fine. “I don’t think anyone was angry with you,” I explained. “They just want you to be safe.”

That would be the end of it, I thought. But by bedtime, she was saying she didn’t want to go back to camp because she didn’t want to go back to swimming. She was too embarrassed.

Would her friends laugh? I asked. No, she said. Would the counselors be upset? She didn’t think so. Would the lifeguard be angry? Maybe. She wasn’t sure.

I assured Teresa that the lifeguard probably gave the whole thing a lot less thought than she did, and maybe didn’t even remember. But I also told her that when she makes a mistake, or a bad choice, or does something she realizes she shouldn’t, the answer isn’t to hide and stop trying. The answer is to keep trying to do better.

God needs to hear us say we’re sorry sometimes, but not because he wants us to be sad. It’s because He wants us to keep trying to get it right, so we can be happy.