Saying I’m Sorry, making amends, seeking and offering forgiveness: themes from Detective Gamache’s final sentence (handled as a prayer)

Never forget the nine most important words of any family-
I love you. You are beautiful. Please forgive me. – H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Any good apology has 3 parts: 1) I’m sorry 2) It’s my fault 3) What can I do to make it right? Most people forget the third part. — Unattributed

Remember, we all stumble, every one of us.
That’s why it’s a comfort to go hand in hand. – Emily Kimbrough

How can I tell you
That I love you, I love you
But I can’t think of [the] right words to say

— Cat Stevens

It’s sad, so sad, Why can’t we talk it over?
Oh, it seems to me, That sorry seems to be the hardest word

— Elton John
I’ve been tryin’ to get down, To the heart of the matter
Because the flesh will get weak, And the ashes will scatter
So, I’m thinkin’ about forgiveness, Forgiveness
Even if , even if you don’t love me
— Don Henley

You gotta go and get angry at all of my honesty
You know I try but I don’t do too well with apologies
I hope I don’t run out of time, could someone call a referee?

‘Cause I just need one more shot at forgiveness
— Justin Bieber

Questions to consider:

  • What is the difference between saying “I’m sorry” and apologizing? What makes an apology meaningful?
  • How do you understand ‘making amends’?
  • On the other side of apologizing and making amends, is the process of forgiveness. Is it helpful to think about forgiveness as a path or a journey, rather than as a finite, one-time act?

Apology Is More Than Saying I’m Sorry.

Songs about saying I’m Sorry, expressing Regret, seeking Forgiveness, experiencing Grace & Mercy:

Pop, rock, hip hop, country, indie, metal, blues:

Religious/Christian rock, pop, Gospel, ballad, country:

Being Sorry, Making Amends, Apologizing, Seeking Forgiveness

Sacrifice is at the heart of repentance. Without deeds, your apology is worthless. — Bryan Davis

Would ‘sorry’ have made any difference? Does it ever? It’s just a word. One word against a thousand actions. – Sarah Ockler

Right actions in the future are the best apologies for bad actions in the past. – Tyron Edwards

To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you. — Lewis Smedes
  In some families, please is described as the magic word. In our house, however, it was ‘sorry.’ – Margaret Laurence

Nothing is easier than to condemn the evildoer, nothing is harder than to understand him. — Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Before we can forgive one another, we have to understand one another.Emma Goldman
The best apology is changed behavior. Apologies are not meant to change the past; they are supposed to change the future. — John Farrar

Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future. – Paul Boese

True remorse is never just a regret over consequence; it is a regret over motive. – Mignon McLaughlin

Accept everything about yourself – I mean everything, You are you and that is the beginning and the end – no apologies, no regrets. – Henry Kissinger

Apologies only account for that which they do not alter. – Benjamin Disraeli

The ability of a person to atone has always been the most remarkable of human features. – Leon Uris

You can make up a quarrel, but it will always show where it was patched. – Edgar Watson Howe

The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people halfway. – Henry Boye

Forgiveness Project: What is Forgiveness?

… forgiveness means many different things to different people. It is deeply personal, often private and far from the soft option many take it to be … often forgiveness is difficult, costly, painful – but potentially transformative.

  • Above all, forgiveness must be a choice because to expect someone to forgive can victimize them all over again. Forgiveness is also a journey and not a destination: in other words it is rarely a one-off, fixed event or a single magnanimous gesture in response to an isolated offence. It is part of a continuum of human engagements in healing broken relationships.
  • You can forgive small acts or big acts; acts against an individual , or a group, or a god. Such acts may or may not be crimes, for example adultery or betrayal.
  • Forgiveness is often considered the mental, and/or spiritual process of relinquishing resentment, indignation or anger against another person for a perceived offense, or ceasing to demand punishment. It is quite separate from justice (meted out by the state through the courts or some other delegated authority). But forgiveness does not preclude justice.
  • … forgiveness can be a useful life skill which can liberate a person who has been hurt, releasing them from the grip of the perpetrator. It is connected with acceptance and moving on. Some have said forgiveness is ‘giving up all hope of a better past.’ In this sense forgiveness is also an act of self-healing, rather than an act of kindness towards someone who has hurt you.
  • In some contexts, forgiveness may be granted without any expectation of compensation, and without any response from the perpetrator (for example, you can forgive a person who shows no remorse or a person who is dead). In other contexts, it may be necessary for the perpetrator to offer some form of acknowledgment, an apology and/or reparation in order for the wronged person to believe they are able to forgive,
  • Finally, forgiveness does not condone or excuse the action. It is a gift from one individual to another. It is therefore debatable whether institutions, governments or nameless officials can actually be forgiven. Some say that with extreme offenses while you may forgive a person for what he or she has done, the act itself remains unforgivable.

Certainly, if somebody is really apologetic and takes responsibility—“My bad. I really hurt you. No excuses.” Then forgiveness is easier. It’s not just bad because you got hurt, but I did something wrong. When someone says, “I’m sorry because you’re hurt,” well, that can make the person who’s been injured feel at fault because they were hurt. That’s an offensive kind of apology. It’s different when you say: “Boy, I did wrong, independently of whether or not you got hurt. I also see how that wrong has impacted you, and I’m sorry for that.” So there are two steps—“I did wrong, and that wrong hurt you.” Then the next step is, “Since it’s my responsibility, what can I do to make it better for you?” That’s a true apology, and that makes a real difference. — Frederic Luskin

From What’s Really Behind ‘I’m Sorry’ Versus ‘I Apologize’& How To Move One — Good Men Project

When you’re saying “I’m sorry,” a sincere apology usually includes the following:

  • a detailed account of the situation
  • acknowledgement of the hurt or damage done
  • taking responsibility for the situation
  • recognition of your role in the event
  • a statement of regret
  • asking for forgiveness
  • a promise that it won’t happen again
  • a form of restitution whenever possible

Making Amends – Learning from the Twelve-Step Program

Making Amends in Addiction Recovery … Step Eight and Step Nine … call this approach “making amends” (full article on Betty Ford site)

  • Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  • Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Below, experts at Hazelden Betty Ford’s Connection™ recovery coaching program answer frequently asked questions about this reconciliation process and why it’s so vital to addiction recovery and spiritual health.

What is a Direct Amend?

In Twelve Step recovery from alcohol or other drug addiction, a direct amend refers to the act of personally addressing issues with people who have been harmed by our behavior or our treatment of them. The practice involves going back to those individuals to acknowledge the harm or hurt we have caused them and demonstrate our changed ways in order to provide them with the opportunity to heal. Whenever possible, a direct amend is made face-to-face rather than over the phone or by asking someone else to apologize on your behalf.

What’s the Difference Between Making Amends and Offering an Apology?

Think of amends as actions taken that demonstrate your new way of life in recovery, whereas apologies are basically words.
In active addiction, our actions and intentions aren’t aligned. For example, we might intend to go to a friend’s birthday party but, in actuality, we fail to show up for the event. While we might apologize later for missing the party, our apology consists of words rather than actions or changed behavior.

In recovery, our actions and intentions are aligned. An example would be telling someone how sorry you are that you stole from them and actually giving back what you took.

Are There Times When Direct Amends Are Not Advisable?

Yes. Step Nine states that we make amends “except when to do so would injure them or others.” We don’t want our actions to cause further damage, harm or stress. Also, we might owe amends to people we can’t reach. In those cases, we can make amends in a broader sense by taking actions such as donating money, volunteering our time or providing care.

It’s also important to take great care when making amends to someone who is in active addiction because our primary responsibility is to safeguard our own health and recovery from substance abuse.

Should I Try to Make Amends with Someone Who Doesn’t Want to Hear From Me?
No matter how much you feel the need to make things right, forcing another to meet with your or hear from you is not part of the Steps. When those we’ve hurt are not able or willing to accept our amends, we can still move in a positive general direction by taking intentional steps to be of service to others.

How Will Making Amends Help my Recovery?

Taking these actions helps us to separate ourselves from the disease of addiction. We come to understand that we are good people with a bad disease. Step 8 and Step 9 help us to move out of the shame we have lived in, shame that feeds the cycle of substance use and addiction. We strengthen and reinforce healthy recovery whenever we do our part to repair relationships or reach out to others with support and understanding.

What If my Attempt to Make Things Right Goes Wrong and Things Get Worse?

It’s important to have a plan in place before you reach out. We can’t know for certain how another person will respond—or even how the interaction might affect us emotionally. So be sure to talk with your sponsor and/or support group about your plan in the event you would need support. Remember, this is a Twelve Step process that can provide a platform for healing, but the person you are reaching out to may not be at the same place in healing as you are. We are only in control of our part—making and living the amends. We cannot control how others respond, whether they will forgive, or whether they will hold onto negative feelings or resentments.

Should I Work on Step Eight Alone?
Generally speaking, people work through the Steps of Alcohol Anonymous with an addiction treatment counselor and/or sponsor. You can also turn to AA’s Big Book and Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions (the 12×12) for guidance specific to Step 8.

When first writing your list, don’t worry about including everyone you have wronged. Start by listing the people closest to you. Over time, as you strengthen and deepen your recovery from alcohol or drug addiction, you will undoubtedly revisit Steps 8 and 9 many times. Eventually, you will find you are making amends day by day through the positive actions you routinely take in living by Twelve Step principles.

What is the Best Way to Make Amends?

There really isn’t a “best way” for everyone. You need to find the approach that works best for you. Talk with your sponsor or others in your recovery community about what has worked for them. If your actions match your intentions and you reach out in person, you are doing the next right thing to right past wrongs. It’s simple, but not easy. And remember, if you are feeling ashamed about mistakes made and damage done during your using days, you are not your disease.

How Soon Do I Start to Make Amends Once I am Sober?

There isn’t a set timeline for working Step 8 and Step 9, so you might want to ask your sponsor and recovery support network for their insights about whether you’re ready. In Twelve Step recovery, your pace is your own to determine. No doubt, you will experience challenges and setbacks along the way. But by prioritizing your recovery on a daily basis and doing whatever that next right thing might be for you, you will keep moving forward in living a life of good purpose.

THIS WEEK with Jackson Community Church and Around Town: Tue, Feb 11 – Mon, Feb 17 (President’s Day)

TUE, Feb 11

  • Community Event: VOTING at POLLS
    Hours for local polling locations as posted in the Conway Daily Sun. Residents who have not yet registered to vote will be able to do so at the polls with a valid proof of residency.
    • Bartlett: 8 a.m.-7 p.m. at town hall.
    • Conway: 8 a.m.-7 p.m. at Conway Elementary School in Conway Village (Hale’s Location also votes here).
    • Jackson: 8 a.m-7 p.m. at the Whitney Center.
  • Private Class: AVALANCHE CLASS
    8:30am-5pm • Jackson Community Church
    Class for back-country winter skiers and hikers to prepare for survival and response to avalanche conditions.
    4-7pm • Table & Tonic, North Conway
    Memorial donations may be made to
  • Community Event: ADULT BOOK GROUP
    4:30pm • Jackson Public Library
  • No more meetings in Feb for the Multi-Church BIBLE STUDY GROUP
    Resumes in Lent, beginning Tue, Mar 3rd.
    5-7pm • Abenaki Trail Restaurant & PubNorth Conway
    Hang with LGBTQ people, friends and families. All welcome! Monthly on second Tuesdays.
    7pm • Bartlett Public Library
    The Big Burn by Timothy Egan with special presenation by Jim Innes, District Ranger of USDA Forest Service.
  • Community Event: Dine-to-Donate BINGO for a CAUSE
    6-8pm @ Red Parka Pub in Glen, NH
    Join Project Graduation for a fun night of Bingo For A Cause!

WED, Feb 12

  • TUNE UP FITNESS with Laurie McAleer 
    9am • Parish House. 
    Fitness class. Free; open to public. Stretching and fitness workouts with certified fitness coach Laurie McAleer. Exercises can be adjusted to individual needs. Weather-dependent; if school is cancelled, class is cancelled.
    9-10am • Gibson Center Todd Fahey, Executive Director of AARP coming to anchor us in the state, national and international Age-Friendly community work. Introducing new 2020 goals for each domain. Rev Gail attends.

THURS, Feb 13

  • Community Service: WAY STATION
    9am & 5pm • 15 Grove St, No Conway
    Friends, members & staff of Jackson Community Church are among volunteers to staff these shifts. Weather-dependent; if school is cancelled, Way Station is closed.
  • YIN RESTORATIVE YOGA for the Mindful Body with Anjali Rose 9am • Jackson Community Church
    Note: 6 weeks $60. Contact Anjali Rose for more info. Weather-dependent; if school is cancelled, yoga is cancelled.
    Noon • Tin Mountain Conservation Nature Learning Center, Albany
    Come learn about research from New Hampshire and beyond on fish habitat and in-stream wood, and what we may expect in our streams in the coming decades as forests age. As well as several stream restoration projects that use our knowledge of stream and riparian processes to help stream ecosystems become healthy again. More info.
  • Community Event: AFTER-SCHOOL NORDIC  3:30pm • Jackson XC Ski Touring Center After-school Nordic program for Jackson Grammar School students. More info.
  • Community Event: EVENING CRAFT-UP
    4pm • Jackson Public Library
    Bring an existing craft to do with neighbors at the library!
    7-8pm • Tin Mountain Conservation Nature Learning Center, Albany
    In September a study was published in the journal Science that highlighted an alarming decline in bird populations throughout North America. Iain MacLeod, Executive Director of Squam Lakes Natural Science Center, took a closer look at long term bird data in New Hampshire’s north country and found similar declines. Join Iain for an evening of exploring and explaining these trends. More info.
  • AA
    6:30pm • Jackson Community Church, 2nd Floor
  • Community Event: The ODD COUPLE
    7:30pm • MD Playhouse, North Conway
    Info & tickets:

FRI, Feb 14

    7-9am • J-Town Deli
    Come for hot beverage and conversation. Or make a date to go for a walk or meet privately by texting/calling Rev Gail’s cell @ 978.273.0308.
    9:30-11am • Jackson Community Church, 2nd Floor
    Come by to talk. Or make a date to go for a walk or meet privately by texting/calling Rev Gail’s cell @ 978.273.0308.
  • Community Event: FRIDAY CONCERT
    Noon • Brown Church, Conway Village
    Mountain Top Music presents the Acoustic Roots ensemble, led by Shana Aisenberg. This ensemble has been learning tunes from foundational genres such as blues, Appalachian fiddle tunes and ballads, bluegrass, old time country, Western swing, gospel, R&B, and early rock and roll. Free, but donations to Mountain Top’s Majestic theater renovation project are greatly appreciated! More info.
  • Community Event: SLIDERS & GLIDERS
    1-3pm – Jackson XC Ski Touring Center
    JCC friends and members participate in this community-wide event. All abilities welcome. $15/visit or $50/season. Go out on trails with instructors and friends. Snacks and beverages follow on-site.
  • Community Event: The ODD COUPLE
    7:30pm • MD Playhouse, North Conway
    Info & tickets:

SAT, Feb 15

  • Private Class: AVALANCHE CLASS
    8:30am-5pm • Jackson Community Church
    Class for back-country winter skiers and hikers to prepare for survival and response to avalanche conditions.
    10am-Noon • Tin Mountain Conservation Nature Learning Center, Albany
    Learn the four basic track patterns and enjoy the morning outside with your family during Tin Mountain’s Winter Tracks Family Snowshoe program. Families of all ages are welcome and encouraged to attend.
  • Community Event: LUMINARY SKI & SNOWSHOE
    5-7pm • Jackson XC Ski Touring
    Also includes Illuminated Ramp Park
  • Community Event: The ODD COUPLE
    7:30pm • MD Playhouse, North Conway
    Info & tickets:

SUN, Feb 16

    8am • Old Red Library
    Come for poetry, prayer and conversation.
    9:15am • Jackson XC Ski Touring Center
    Rev Gail provides blessings for staff and XC skiers.
    10:10am• Jackson Community Church
    Come learn songs early and help as song leaders for congregation.
    10:30am • Jackson Community Church
    * Message: Rev Gail Doktor
    * Music director & instrumentalist: Alan Labrie
    * Soloist: Alyssa Lachapelle performing original composition by Alan Labrie
  • Community Event: CUPCAKE BATTLE
    1-3pm • North Conway Community Center
    Bakers  square off in 4 categories (professional, home, teen and child) with a winner selected in each division. $12/pp Aroma Joe’s coffee station and Cake Walk Silent Auction. More info; event usually sells out so acquire tickets in advance.
    3:30pm • Jackson Public Library
    Second of 6-part series to hold conversations on racial justice and how our community can become more self-aware and active around this issue. Why does it matter? Uses peer-reviewed curriculum; conversations are facilitated. Joint program sponsored by Jackson Public Library & Jackson Community Church. If you haven’t already joined us and want to attend,  RSVP to learn what we covered in the first session and feel free to join us for as many conversations as possible! Free and open to public.
  • Community Event: The ODD COUPLE
    3:30pm • MD Playhouse, North Conway
    Info & tickets:

MON, Feb 17: President’s Day (Holiday)

  • Schools closed

Reflections on Song as Prayer

Man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips. — Viktor E. Frankl

Life is like a recycling center, where all the concerns and dramas of humankind get recycled back and forth across the universe. But what you have to offer is your own sensibility, maybe your own sense of humor or insider pathos or meaning. All of us can sing the same song, and there will still be four billion different renditions. ― Anne Lamott

There is a very important distinction to be made between listening and hearing. Sometimes we listen to things, but we never hear them. True listening brings us in touch even with that which is unsaid and unsayable. Sometimes the most important thresholds of mystery are places of silence. To be genuinely spiritual is to have great respect for the possibilities and presence of silence. …When you listen with your soul, you come into rhythm and unity with the music of the universe.
~ John O’Donohue

Songs as forms of prayer and spiritual expression:

One Song — Rumi

Every war and every conflict between human beings
has happened because of some disagreement about names.

It is such an unnecessary foolishness,
because just beyond the arguing
there is a long table of companionship
set and waiting for us to sit down.

What is praised is one, so the praise is one too,
many jugs being poured into a huge basin.
All religions, all this singing, one song.
The differences are just illusion and vanity.
Sunlight looks a little different on this wall
than it does on that wall
and a lot different on this other one,
but it is still one light.

We have borrowed these clothes,
these time-and-space personalities,
from a light, and when we praise,
we are pouring them back in.

Sound & Song as Prayer

…music is about as physical as it gets: your essential rhythm is your heartbeat; your essential sound, the breath. We’re walking temples of noise, and when you add tender hearts to this mix, it somehow lets us meet in places we couldn’t get to any other way. ― Anne Lamott
Prayer does not use up artificial energy, doesn’t burn up any fossil fuel, doesn’t pollute. Neither does song, neither does love, neither does the dance. — Margaret Mead

To give pleasure to a single heart by a single act is better than a thousand heads bowing in prayer. — Mahatma Gandhi

My grandmother took me to church on Sunday all day long, every Sunday into the night. Then Monday evening was the missionary meeting. Tuesday evening was usher board meeting. Wednesday evening was prayer meeting. Thursday evening was visit the sick. Friday evening was choir practice. I mean, and at all those gatherings, we sang. — Maya Angelou
The desire is thy prayers; and if thy desire is without ceasing, thy prayer will also be without ceasing. The continuance of your longing is the continuance of your prayer. — Saint Augustine

The music that I have learned and want to give is like worshipping God. It’s absolutely like a prayer. — Ravi Shankar

Singing in the midst of evil is what it means to be disciples. Like Mary Magdalene, the reason we stand and weep and listen for Jesus is because we, like Mary, are bearers of resurrection, we are made new. On the third day, Jesus rose again, and we do not need to be afraid. To sing to God amidst sorrow is to defiantly proclaim, like Mary Magdalene did to the apostles, and like my friend Don did at Dylan Klebold’s funeral,t hat death is not the final word. To defiantly say, once again, that a light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot, will not, shall not overcome it. And so, evil be damned, because even as we go to the grave, we still make our song alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia. ― Nadia Bolz-Weber

Silence is one of the major thresholds in the world. . . . Meister Eckhart said that there is nothing in the world that resembles God so much as silence. Silence is a great friend of the soul; it unveils the riches of solitude. It is very difficult to reach that quality of inner silence. You must make a space for it so that it may begin to work for you. In a certain sense, you do not need the whole armory and vocabulary of therapies, psychologies, or spiritual programs. If you have a trust in and an expectation of your own solitude, everything that you need to know will be revealed to you. These are some wonderful lines from the French poet Rene Char: “Intensity is silent, its image is not. I love everything that dazzles me and then accentuates the darkness within me.” Here is an image of silence as the force that discloses hidden depth. Silence is the sister of the divine.
— John O’Donohue

On Prayer
In prayer it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart. — Mahatma Gandhi
I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right; but it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation may be on the Lord’s side. — Abraham Lincoln
In prayer, we stand where angels bow with veiled faces. There, even there, the cherubim and seraphim adore before that selfsame throne to which our prayers ascend. And shall we come there with stunted requests and narrow, contracted faith? — Charles Spurgeon
Prayer is simply a two-way conversation between you and God. —Billy Graham

You carry Mother Earth within you. She is not outside of you. Mother Earth is not just your environment. In that insight of inter-being, it is possible to have real communication with the Earth, which is the highest form of prayer. — Thich Nhat Hanh

Just as in earthly life lovers long for the moment when they are able to breathe forth their love for each other, to let their souls blend in a soft whisper, so the mystic longs for the moment when in prayer he can, as it were, creep into God. — Soren Kierkegaard
‘Thank you’ is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding. — Alice Walker