A child first learning to apologize, will typically hang their head low in shame, avoiding eye contact. The words “I’m sorry” will be soft and meek. Apologizing is publically admitting to doing something wrong and causing suffering to others. The point of apologizing is to acknowledge where we have gone wrong so that we may do better going forward. Being forgiven is just the icing on the cake.
Imagine what a society would look like if no one ever apologized, if people lived with no sense of responsibility to others, if they laughed when they were told their actions or words were hurtful.
On Yom Kippur, we recite a prayer of confession. We stand together, gently beating our fists over our hearts, and ask for forgiveness. For literally everything. On this day, we are talking about our individual transgressions and the transgressions of the world as a whole. It is a communal apology from everyone to everyone.
Read more about the art of the apology in The Hardest Word, in which God teaches the mythical ziz bird that all mistakes are fixable if one’s effort is sincere. And in I’m Sorry, Grover, Brosh learns a similar lesson: after apologizing to his friends, he vows to be a better friend in the future.Oh No, Jonah! retells the story of the reluctant prophet we are accustomed to hearing about on Yom Kippur, a perfect reminder that a fresh start is always an option for one who truly repents. That is the life-changing power of saying “I’m sorry.”