Jokes and Apologies

A few years ago, That Weird Kid From the Gas Station and I went to a marriage conference. There was a speaker there that we very unkindly called Droopy Dog because we thought he looked like that guy. I can’t even remember what his talk was about, but at one point, he said that we don’t need to make jokes. He said something along the lines of “The world doesn’t need you to be clever. Everybody’s clever.” That really hit me. Because that’s me. I love being clever. I love making the best joke. And I will go to almost any length to do it. I don’t go too mean, but I will tell jokes at people’s expense, my own as well as others. I always figure that if I would tell the joke in front of the person, it’s alright. But that’s a pretty wide berth, and I don’t always follow it. I realized then that that was a sign of my pride. I would rather be clever than more like Christ. But I didn’t really think about it too much because, hey, everyone needs a good joke sometimes, right?

Flash forward to now. I am starting to see that another way that my pride shows is in the way I apologize. I am totally willing to say that I am wrong. But there are always conditions. I want to point out why I did what I did wrong, or what I was responding to that lead me to it. I excuse that because I try to end with, “All that being said, there’s really no excuse for what I did and I am sincerely sorry.” Well, obviously, that’s a lie and I do think there is an excuse for what I did. I just spent x number of minutes running down all the excuses. When I think about it, and, especially, when other people do it to me *eye roll at myself*, I know it’s wrong, but I justify it. I justify it because the other person would want to know my side. Or I have a right to speak. Or it’s not right for the other person to not hear the whole story. This is about the truth and we are supposed to speak the truth. But that is a real load of whatever colorful thing you like to insert here. I like rainbows. That is a real load of rainbows. (See, that’s a good joke. And no one got hurt.)

The only truth that we are supposed to choose and stand up for over everything else is “Christ and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2) Beyond that, Paul says:

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.                                                                                 -Romans 12:16-18

And Jesus says:

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.      -Matthew 5:23-24

John Piper, in a sermon called Getting Right with God and Each Other (, says that these verses taken together, mean that before we can rightly worship we must do everything we can to reconcile with our brother. He goes on to say that you don’t have to worry about people who are holding a grudge unfairly or who are unrighteously angry at you. But what I am discussing is the idea that we should do all we can to reconcile. I think that means delivering a clean apology, no mitigation, no excuses, no blame-shifting. And it doesn’t matter if the other person never gets to hear all the really good reasons why you did what you did. I don’t need to tell them that I am not such a bad person even though I did what I did. What tells them I’m not such a bad person, even though I did what I did, is the fact that I am repenting of what I did. I mean, really, duh.

But doing that means that I must give up my right to be heard and risk that the other person will not apologize for their part. And that is something that I can’t be concerned about. This is a vital part of understanding humility. But I’ll get to that another time.

(As a neat aside, I notice that that quote from Matthew says that not reconciling with your brother will get in the way of your worship. Kind of the same way that cursing your brother gets in the way of praising God from the James passage yesterday. God is a God of continuity and synergy. I love that.)

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