I was blessed by an almost 40-year career as the CEO of Regency Lighting. Over that timeframe, more than $2 billion came in and out of our corporate bank account. The average transaction was approximately $200, which meant that approximately 10 million transactions occurred.
Since its beginning, Regency Lighting has employed thousands of people. There have been offices across 10 different cities, six states, and even in another country. My career included innumerable discussions and decisions about accounting, vendors, human resource issues, credit and collections, and legal matters. All of this, and the myriad of other things that made up daily life at Regency, easily leads me to believe I made over 100,000 decisions during my career.
I sincerely believe I was a good leader. And if I told you 98% of the decisions I made were good ones, you might be impressed. Yet the reality of that statistic indicates there were also 2,000 mistakes! There was a time in my career that I felt as though I should answer the phone by saying, “Hello, this is Ron, I’m sorry, how may I help you?”
The Difficulty of Apologizing
Why is apologizing so hard? Even as leaders, do we realize that if we’re not apologizing often, then it’s likely we’re unaware of our shortcomings? Do we really believe we are sinners saved by grace? Or is it a nice sounding phrase we use without giving it practical application?
I don’t hear many apologies being made these days and that really saddens me. Consider these verses with me for a moment.
- “We must decrease so that He may increase” (John 3:30, paraphrased).
- “All have fallen short” (Romans 3:23, paraphrased).
- “Our righteousness is as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6, paraphrased).
If we truly believe these Scriptures, why aren’t we hearing more apologies?
I founded a company and have been married to the same woman since 1973. I also have three sons in their 40s, three daughter-in-law’s and eight grandchildren. With all the relationships this represents, I have definitely made my share of mistakes and continue to make some! Yet I’ve tried very hard over the course of my life to admit when I am wrong. I have also had the joy of deep friendships with some who do the same.
The Link Between Apologizing and Character
Admitting our mistakes and taking ownership for our errors is the cornerstone for the character traits of humility and honesty. Many years ago, I came to the realization that honesty, though difficult to practice, has SO many more benefits than the alternative. Admitting our mistakes is similar. There is freedom when we keep our hearts pure and our slates clean. It is what gives us the privilege to walk or live “in the light as He is in the light” (I John 1:7, paraphrased). It gives us the joy of deep fellowship with one another. I John 1:7 goes on to say that when we do this, “the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin”.
So why is it so difficult for us to admit when we’re wrong? Could the reason be rooted in the original sin of pride? The culture around us also makes it challenging, for it teaches us that admitting our mistakes is a sign of weakness. When we are afraid to be seen as weak, we cover up. Scripture teaches the opposite. It is only through confessing our shortcomings that we learn to trust in God for our self-esteem. Living in this manner also gives honor to what is true, rather than only to what makes us look our best. It causes us to continuously work on ourselves and be willing to always surrender to what’s right in God’s eyes.
The Benefits of An Apology Mindset
Sadly, failing to confess or admit our mistakes makes it more likely we will keep making them. We can’t expect anyone to be perfect – not even our leaders. But oh, how I long for ALL of us to model humility. In our leadership positions, our family roles, and in EVERY aspect of our lives.
I am persuaded that modeling humility, by owning our mistakes, will lead to healthier organizations, families, churches, and individuals. For it is honesty and humility that produce trust, and trust is required to build strong personal and professional relationships. Let’s not choose to guard and protect ourselves. Rather, let’s work at owning our mistakes, so that we might learn a better way. As a Q4 Impacter, will you be intentional to model this? It’s clearly what Scripture teaches and the best way to live your life!