“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Remember that line from the 1970 movie and novel by Erich Segal? Ali MacGraw’s character said it to her husband played by Ryan O’Neal, about mid-film when he started to apologize for being angry. He repeated the line at the end of the film after his wife died, saying it in anger to his father. His father had said, “I’m sorry,” attempting to apologize for being less than supportive of the marriage.
Angry. Never saying you’re sorry. Love?
As I journey through life, I’m discovering how important it is to say you’re sorry. Asking for forgiveness is the other half of love because we love so imperfectly.
We get angry, jealous, fearful and disappointed. Others do not behave the way we want them to – they do not give us what we want or need. We do not love one another well, or ourselves.
And so we must forgive.
From today’s reflection by Richard Rohr: “Just as the Bible takes us through many stages of consciousness and history, it takes us individually a long time to move beyond our need to be dualistic, judgmental, accusatory, fearful, blaming, egocentric, and earning–and to see as Jesus sees. The Bible… offer[s] both the mature and the immature responses to almost everything. In time, you will almost naturally recognize the difference between the text moving forward toward the mercy, humility, and inclusivity of Jesus and when the text is regressing into arrogance, exclusion, and legalism. Even a child can see the difference, but an angry or power-hungry person will not.”
Last week, I got a call from my uncle George. It was the one-year anniversary of his bicycle accident, which I wrote about here. Uncle George is walking without a cane now and rides the stationary bike at a gym near his house. He’s making hospital visits again, to bring comfort to those who are suffering. And he’s visited the elderly man who hit him.
I shared with Uncle George that I am working on this, succeeding a little and failing a lot. He texted me, “God promised forgiveness” and this verse: “If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
The next verse is just as important: “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”
In other words, Love means owning up to the truth and saying, “I wronged you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” To family, to friends, to neighbors, to strangers, whenever we are less than loving.
It does not mean forgive and forget, which would minimize the experience, and it does not depend on others’ apologies or acceptance of ours. It does mean letting go of anger to live a more healthy life.
Two years after Love Story played in movie theaters, O’Neal starred in comedy film What’s Up, Doc? opposite Barbra Streisand. At one point, she batted her eyes and cooed, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”
O’Neal replied, “That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.”