“A soft word turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.” -Proverbs 15:1
My posts are usually birthed from noticing patterns or trends in myself or people around me. Lately, I’ve noticed that humans straight up struggle with apologizing. We hate it. I know this isn’t something that has come easy for humanity at any point in history, but I still find it remarkable just how difficult it is for people to this day…even people of faith. I have personally been wronged or witnessed others being wronged and watched the wrong-doer find every way imaginable around actually apologizing. To be fair, I have also been that wrong-doer who finds every way imaginable around saying I’m sorry. It’s not easy! Yet, more times than I haven’t I have mustered the courage to apologize.
But why is it so hard to say (and mean) those two little words?
The obvious answer is pride. It is prideful to not want to admit wrong. It is pride that tells us we will look weak if we yield to another person’s hurt. It is pride that tells us to find all the reasons we can to justify our behavior. It is pride that puts our ego ahead of another persons heart or feelings. It is pride that values being right over relationship.
It’s just ugly pride. Plain and simple. And in the end, it gets us nowhere.
But instead of dwelling on what motivates us away from apologizing, let’s talk about what apologizing does for relationships.
The Bible is rife with parables, verses, proverbs and stories where godly sorrow, repentance, and downright confessions saved relationships and restored peace to everyone involved. (It goes without saying that the highest call of every wounded believer is to forgive. Forgiveness frees the injured person and takes the sting out of offense in a way that preserves us and releases the offender from any further expectations, especially if no apology is going to take place. But my emphasis today is on apology.)
**Being forgiven does not mean offering an apology is no longer necessary.**
Apology creates room for reconciliation. The heart of the Father is reconciliation 100 percent of the time, but reconciliation doesn’t happen 100 percent of the time. Why? Because someone is missing from the reconciliation process. Someone is forfeiting their opportunity to own their part of the situation and create a flow of restoration; someone is choosing not to help heal an injury they inflicted or made worse. More often than not, someone is still pointing the finger, hiding from, deflecting, or remaining defensive in order to avoid taking responsibility. Forgiveness can free the offended, but rarely can it bring reconciliation if the other parties involved refuse to come to the table with more than their pride.
Remember, forgiveness frees the wounded but it does not reconcile the wound.
When someone apologizes for their error it immediately brings a vulnerability into a situation that allows the grace of God to flow freely. You can feel the tension and tightness that enters an atmosphere when there is disagreement, hurt, or offense. A sincere apology releases that tension. It is like a lowered drawbridge that allows peace in to to the heart to subtly pull down the walls protecting each person involved. Almost every time I’ve been part of an offensive situation and either chosen to be the apologizer or witnessed someone stepping up to apologize it always created a domino affect sooner or later. Once one person apologized, most people involved begin to take ownership of their misconduct and forgiveness and reconciliation flow freely. It’s a beautiful sight! Through situations like that you are able to see maturity in everyone involved and the trust and bond between everyone deepens.
You see, when someone takes responsibility and apologizes for their behavior they are sending clear signals to everyone involved that “you can trust me with your heart.” Without saying it, they are communicating that even though they may mess up every now and then, they will be faithful to make it right. This inspires deeper levels of love and trust between people. The Apologizer immediately becomes a safe person. Let’s face it, we are all going to hurt each other at different times. It may be a while until you’re perfect! The more you show those you love that they are safe with you by how you take responsibility when you go wrong, the more free and loved everyone around you will feel. You are leading by example. It is when someone withholds taking responsibility that trust and a sense of safety begin to break down and could ultimately destroy the relationship.
Yes, apologizing can hurt your pride. Yes, sometimes it may be the right thing to do even if you are sure you’re not in “the wrong”. Yes, it may not always get the warm reception you’d like it to. And yes, the other parties involved may not choose to follow your lead towards reconciliation. But if living peaceably with all men (Hebrews 12:14) is important to you, it will be impossible to attain without you becoming an excellent apologizer. And what will it cost you?! It’ll cost you nothing but your pride. If you’re wise you’ll take every opportunity you’re offered to crucify that beast.
PRO TIP: When apologizing is necessary, be the FIRST one to step up and do it…be the bigger person…and mean your words. Say it with sincerity. It doesn’t have to be a long essay, it just needs to be real. Then forgive and walk away. Hang your hat on having done the right thing, no matter how painful it may have felt and let go of your expectations of anyone else involved. Your humility in that moment may restore a crucial relationship and may have just saved you weeks, months, or even years of unnecessary pain.
Moral of the story: Apologies save relationships. I am convinced that more relationships are unnecessarily lost because people are unwilling to go low and humble themselves for the sake of another. It’s sad really. Pride destroys too many beautiful things. Don’t let it happen to you. Every time you humble yourself and choose not to defend yourself you look like Jesus. I find there are few things that look more Christlike to me on a day to day basis than people who are genuinely kind and people who are quick to own their faults or errors without defensiveness. Those people are trying to live a 1 Corinthians 13 kind of life and they impress me and give me a model of what I can become.
So to close let’s practice the art of apologizing:
Picture in your mind a situation where you wronged or upset someone lately. A situation that you have not yet reconciled. Got something yet?
Okay, now practice saying this: “I am sorry for how I said/did _____________. [Insert your acknowledgement of how you impacted/hurt this person and express your godly sorrow and remorse.] Please forgive me.”
BOOM. You did it! It’s that easy! What are we so afraid of, amiright??
Now….go find that person that you just pictured in your mind and say those same words to them. Be courageous! Watch how your humility attracts Holy Spirit to fall on both of your hearts and also watch how that moment of vulnerability invites exponential intimacy and trust into your restoring relationship. You just became a more safe, loving, and trustworthy person. You just carried the heart of the Father. Well done.
Here’s to taking ownership and healthier relationships,