Why is it so hard to say “sorry”?

This just in: professional basketball is not a no-contact sport. Especially during the playoffs. Maybe it’s just my imagination, but it seems the number of key injuries has risen in the last several years. Players getting hammered in the head. Elbowed in the face. Knocked out of the air while going for a dunk. And as much as we’d like to see a championship series be all about skill and strategy, these days it’s become more and more about which team is the healthiest.

In this year’s playoffs, my favorite team was involved in a chippy series with flagrant fouls, injuries, and ejections on both sides. Angry accusations were made; fingers were pointed. Unkind things were said in interviews and on social media, and fans piled on, including those who used racial slurs.

But no one, as far as I could see, apologized for anything.

Or if they did, it didn’t seem to make the news.

I get it: these are elite athletes with a passion to win. And no one, I assume, goes out there with the conscious intention to hurt anyone. I understand how in the heat of the moment and everything in motion, bad things happen without malice aforethought.

What I wish, though, is that players could more easily apologize for their part in someone’s injury without it having to be tantamount to saying, “Yep, I did it on purpose.” After all, it’s all right there on the replay, which gets repeated over and over again in the media, ad nauseam. Everyone can see it: you did it. You didn’t mean to do it, but you did it. Why can’t that be said? Hey, man, I’m so sorry I hurt you. I assure you it wasn’t intentional. But I feel bad that you got hurt because of something I did. Get better quickly!

Maybe that sounds ludicrous, out of touch. I’m not a professional athlete. I know nothing about that culture.

But I can tell you about what I do know: I often have trouble saying sorry, too. It sticks in my throat, even when it should be easy.

Surely I’m not the only one.

We are fallible people. We make mistakes. We do things we regret — or should regret, if we would allow ourselves to acknowledge that we did them in the first place. And even though everyone readily agrees that “Nobody’s perfect,” we still have trouble admitting how others may be hurt by our own imperfect behavior.

The people who follow a crucified and risen Savior should know better. Jesus died not just for hardened criminals but for the best and brightest among us. We share a common, flawed humanity; the fact of the cross is the ultimate equalizer.

We don’t have to apologize for things we haven’t done. But the cross should make it easier for us to admit the things we have done, to be less defensive, to be more willing to grieve any pain we’ve caused.

Even when we didn’t mean to.

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