Earlier this week, we were up in the LA wasteland area and I was reminded of how much I really, really dislike driving there (I’m trying to refrain from saying that I hate it because, as we’ve been teaching our daughter, that’s a very strong word — but, seriously, I was on the verge of losing it completely the whole time we were driving around). One thing I do miss, though, is Air Talk with Larry Mantle on KPCC, the local NPR station up there. Larry Mantle is a great interviewer but, like Cinderella shrilled, you don’t know what you got ’till it’s gone.

Here in SD, I have tried to supplant my morning Mantle with These Days on KPBS, hosted by Tom Fudge — with mixed results. I’m not saying anything bad about Fudge — I mean, the man bikes to work (and survived a scary accident after being hit by a car while biking to work one morning); I think I was just used to Larry Mantle’s banter and rhythm.

I did hear a really interesting topic recently on These Days: “Apologies: Do Them Meaningfully and Gracefully Accept Them.” Politicians are infamous for non-apologies. Think, Mistakes were made, “We” made mistakes or If I did anything wrong… One guest, Dr. Bruce Weinstein, points out that the classic non-apology, “I’m sorry if you were offended” is actually a thinly veiled criticism: “Well, it’s your fault for being so thin-skinned or weak in character anyways.”

Life together is so messy. In any kind of community (families, churches, friends, workplaces) we constantly run the risk of stepping on each other’s toes, whether consciously done or not. Jokes gone wrong, careless words, thoughtless actions: We hurt the people we love, we mess up all the time. While we don’t want to become a groveling heap, learning to apologize sincerely is crucial if we hope to create, build and sustain genuine community.

I appreciate John Ortberg’s idea on forgiveness from Everybody’s Normal Till You Get To Know Them: “Forgiveness begins when we give up the quest to get even.” This is an enormous sticking point for most people; accomplishing it would be nothing short of life-changing. As my wife recently heard from a speaker at her MOPS group, when we choose not to forgive someone else it’s like drinking poison and wishing that they would die. However, I find myself often content to forgive and forget… that you ever existed at all. But the story of the Gospel is one of reconciliation, not avoidance passed off as forgiveness. If we are to live as God’s people, we must learn to forgive and how to ask for forgiveness.

We live in a culture of non-apologies — it’s all damage control and spin. While that might play well to focus groups, it does little for actual relationships. Instead, may we choose the hard path of humility, sincerity and responsibility.