"If I hurt you, I'm sorry."
"What do you mean ‘if'?"
"When I said that, I didn't mean to hurt you."
"But did you mean to say it?"
How weak are those apologies. How unsatisfying. How ultimately ineffectual. If someone we love (our husband, for example) says or does something that causes us pain, the relationship is damaged -- even if just temporarily. A distance is created. We just don't feel as close, as comfortable.
In order to remedy the situation, the person we love (our husband, for example) must apologize. He must recognize his mistake and his words must be sincere. We need to believe that he means it. We need to believe he'll try not to do it again. We must see that he is in pain too, that he understands how important this relationship is and how seriously he has damaged it.
When all those pieces are in place, we are ready to accept his apology, to let go and to move on. Our relationship is back on solid footing.
The same is true in our relationship with the Almighty. When we err, when we indulge our bodies instead of our souls, we damage that relationship. We create a distance between ourselves and our Creator. Yet it's the Almighty Himself who taught us how to repair it, who gave us the tools and the mechanism.
He's the One who explained to us what it really means to be sorry -- and how to go forward. He's the One who gave us the opportunity of repentance, the ability to close the distance between us and Him.
And even though we can always return, He gave us the special occasion of Yom Kippur and performed the additional kindness of telling us exactly what to do.
As with those we love (did I mention our husbands?), we need to acknowledge we made a mistake. No half-hearted ‘ifs' -- an out and out recognition that the action was incorrect. We need to confess it aloud. If we are sorry but don't tell our spouse (for example), how will they know? For that matter, we haven't really acknowledged the error until we make it tangible through an oral expression of it.
We also need to feel sincere regret. A "sorry" to just move things along that doesn't smack of real remorse is a non-starter (note to husbands). And we have to commit ourselves not to make the same mistake again. (And again and again)
The ultimate test of our success is that when placed in an analogous situation, we act differently; we don't replay the same scene.
This is the Almighty's gift to us -- the chance to wipe the slate clean and repair our relationship.
But there's one more crucial piece. The Almighty is all-merciful. Even if we don't completely succeed, He gives us points for trying. And more chances.
We need to have the same compassion for others -- like our husbands for example.