Faith

Why the Ability to Say ‘I’m Sorry’ to Our Loved Ones Is More Important Than Ever

The Bible teaches us that this is most powerful step in repentance and forgiveness

Actress Ali MacGraw immortalized this line in the 1970 movie “Love Story”: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

It became the movie’s most memorable line — and has been quoted ever since.

But does the repetition of it make it true?

Are the words “I’m sorry” really unnecessary when it comes to those we love?

One Bible chapter worth noting right now is from Genesis — and it’s filled with hidden meaning.

In Judaism, it is referred to as “The Covenant Between the Pieces.”

God commanded Abraham to bring a heifer, a goat, a ram, and two birds.

The animals were cut in half and placed opposite each other.

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Abraham heard the Lord proclaim that his descendants would go through harsh exile but emerge triumphant.

Then Abraham witnessed a torch pass between the animal parts — and God promised Abraham that Canaan would be his forever.

The Jewish sages teach that Abraham understood from this seemingly strange ritual that his descendants would go through multiple exiles — but eventually, they would be saved and brought back to Israel.

The land of Israel would always belong to God’s children.

The sages also provide us with the following behind-the-scenes conversation.

Abraham said to God, “If Israel sins, won’t You destroy them?”

Abraham reasoned that if Israel sinned, they would no longer deserve the land and they might not inherit it after all.

He asked, “Sovereign Lord, how can I know that I will gain possession of it?”

Tradition says that God answered, “They will bring me sacrifices in the Temple and that will atone for them.”

Abraham countered, “But what about when there is no Temple?”

God explained, “Then they will read the verses of confession and that will atone for them.”

Abraham accepted God’s response — and was at peace.

The sages explain that the most critical part of the sacrificial ritual was confession.

This began the procedure.

The whole ritual was dependent upon a heartfelt confession and deeply felt regret.

The worshipper had to say, “I’m sorry, God” — only then would his service be complete.

Related: Jewish Holy Days Remind Us We Need to Get Right with God

Since this was the essence of the ritual, it would be enough to read the verses of confession even when the temple no longer stood.

Even today, saying “I’m sorry” is the most critical and powerful step in repentance and forgiveness.

We learn from this teaching the importance of saying “I’m sorry.”

If we have to say it to God, who can read our minds and loves us more than anyone in this world, how much more so do we have to say it to our loved ones who are merely flesh and blood?

Related: Why Praying Throughout the Day Is a Really Good Idea

The words “I’m sorry” are critical in the process of forgiveness, no matter which family member is involved or is part of the process.

And despite what those in Hollywood and elsewhere might think — love does means having to say “I’m sorry.”

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Yael Eckstein
meet the author

Yael Eckstein is president of The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, founded in 1983; she oversees all ministry programs and serves as the international spokesperson. Based in Jerusalem with her husband and their four children, she is a published writer and a respected social services professional. She has contributed to The Jerusalem Post and The Times of Israel and is the author of two books, “Holy Land Reflections: A Collection of Inspirational Insights from Israel” and “Spiritual Cooking with Yael.” The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews is the largest channel of Christian support for Israel.

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