On Lenten repentin': Actions speak louder than words.
"Say you're sorry to Timmy."
"You don't sound sorry."
It wasn't until I was living in West Africa as a young adult that I first learned to ask for forgiveness. I had grown up, being instructed to "say sorry," to apologize for the things I said or did that offended. How unsatisfying these apologies were! It rarely sounded or felt sincere, and it always felt inadequate, one-sided. It didn't feel like anything really changed, because it was one-sided.
During my Peace Corps stay in the Ivory Coast, I had several circles of friends, circles that didn't easily overlap. One night, I lied to my Ivorian friend and went to my French friend's party. It was a betrayal, and my slight discomfort turned to deep shame the next day when I confronted the hurt in her eyes. "Sorry" wasn't working, and I was distressed at the brokenness I had caused. In answer to my distress, another friend in the circle told me that the Ivorian way was to ask for forgiveness. Asking for forgiveness was so different from making an apology. I had to articulate what I had done to offend, a soul-searching process, and make myself vulnerable by asking her to forgive me. I felt nervous. The asking and the granting not only repaired the hurt, they made our relationship stronger. I was mindful of my actions in a way that "sorry" had never provoked. It was so much bigger and more satisfying than simply apologizing.
Lent calls us to recognize the ways in which we have grown apart from each other and from God, and to change our lives to make these relationships right, better than before.
- Pam Bronder-Giroux, social studies teacher at the Prep, is currently on leave caring for her mom. She is grateful for the support of the Prep community in this journey.