Well, now that it’s gained national attention, the students apologized. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in those students’ homes, parents lashing out about how they could “do such a thing” and “do you realize how this makes us look?” and the whatnot.
Well, students, I do not accept your apology. I don’t believe you’re sorry; I think you’re sorry you got caught.
I know, perhaps it’s up to the bus monitor to actually accept the apology, and in her 65 years of wisdom, she probably will. But I’m still too idealistic. I refuse the apology.
It’s too easy to screw up and simply apologize your way out of it. Or worse: say “I’m just kidding.” One of the scriptures that hits me close to the heart, which I think should be hung in every middle school classroom, is Proverbs 26:18-19: Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows and death, so is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “was I not joking?”
Somehow, like the ways in which we don’t know the weight of our words to hurt, we also don’t realize how insincerity prevents healing. Tossing out an “I’m sorry” as we go on our way doesn’t help bring resolution. We’ve began to treat such words as a way to release us from our own guilt, as opposed to bringing reconciliation.
Though I can nary remember a Hebrew verb form, I do recall a factoid gained through translating a verse on ox goring. Yes, seriously, ox goring. “If a man’s ox gores another ox…”and then there’s a “gorer of gorers” phrase, meaning “the mother of all oxes that gore”. (Just notch this one on the belt of “learn something new everyday”). IN ANY CASE, in learning about ox goring, we also learned what retributions were to follow if your ox gored either another ox or a person. The cost differed depending on the offense. Also, if it was a habitual gorer.
The point? Yes, there is one. My professor told us that in Old Testament law, one could not simply say “I’m sorry” and consider the situation resolved. They had to pay retributions. And it wasn’t simply a way to keep things fair – one can not simply replace a beloved ox. But something within the culture – and God’s character, I’m prone to wonder – required you show, not just say, apologies. This is where “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” comes in. The phrase has nothing to do with revenge. It means giving back that which you destroyed. Making amends is about offering, not taking, what was destroyed.
So, if you ask me, these kids need to replace a gored ox. In terms of a fair retribution, I don’t have a lot of suggestions. They made so many cracks about her weight, I’d be inclined to send them to “fat kid camp” (or a kid version of the Biggest Looser) where they can replace their bullying habits by learning confidence and how to overcome life’s challenges with effort instead of pushing others around.
This situation prompted me to reflect upon how I can help my own kids engage in true repentance. I’m sure there will be times when an offhanded “sorry” is the best we’ll get. But in terms of habits, how do we instill the idea that rectifying the relationship takes priority over relieving our own sense of guilt? How do we steer them, with their I’m Sorrys, toward change? Though my kids recite it, how do they begin to embody the idea that “I’m sorry means I won’t do it again”?