Love is not proud… it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 1 Cor. 13:4-5
This new year started with God inviting me into a path of love that I had not been looking for. It was a bumpy road that God thought I should travel on three times, to make sure I got the lesson. The name of this path is apology.
Naming sin and apologizing is not a new concept for me. Growing up, I went to a church where every Sunday we confessed our sins to God and heard that He was faithful to forgive us. As a parent and elementary school teacher, apologies are a regular part of life. At home, in the classroom, and on the playground, I teach kids to say “I am sorry for…” and then to say “I forgive you”. I am also blessed to work in a school where apology is a regular way of being among the staff. When wrong choices are made, I have witnessed, and also given, apologies that brought healing and health to our community.
I would love to tell you that I read a remarkable book on apologizing, such as “The Five Languages of Apology,” but I did not. My recent lessons in apologizing came from the school of real-life relationships. My teachers were three family members very close to me, two in my own house and another whom I have been related to my whole life. Each situation with these loved ones involved an intense discussion, okay, argument, that left both participants very angry. The anger stemmed from a cyclical pattern of discussion going wrong, with both parties to blame. The trigger might have been different than other times but the pattern of thoughts were familiar. Each party made mistakes they had made before. Because of this, what God led me to do next was a revitalizing new trail.
In the past I have viewed that apology after conflict should go something like this: I say I am sorry for my mistake, then the other person says sorry for their error. Both say I forgive you and we try again. What happened recently was very different for me because I felt God leading me to just say sorry for my part and not be concerned with the other person’s role in the problem. I learned that an apology that is well received does not include listing the other person’s faults. In Matthew 7, Jesus stated that we should first take the plank out of our own eye, and then we will see clearly to remove the speck from our brother’s eye. I believe a humble apology that focuses on one’s own mistakes is one way we can do this. The faults of the other are still there and should be addressed at a future time, but not while apologizing.
Owning our mistakes and asking for forgiveness when others have hurt us is difficult. It is humbling and it can be confusing. But it is love, because love is not proud. I found that much prayer, reflection, and letting God’s Word speak truth into my heart helped me know which parts of the conflict were my sin. I also found that writing out my apology, even reworking the words over and over to ensure I removed the log in my eye, enabled me to give a sincere apology. Two of my apologies last month were written out ahead of time and read by the hurt family member. These went better than the other one with less preparation because in that case, I unfortunately once again started to list the other person’s sin rather than just my own. Bumpy road indeed.
Proverbs 15:1 says “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger”.
I pray as you walk through challenging moments in your relationships you are able to take time to step back to look at your own mistakes, possibly apologize, and find new habits and paths of healing as you move forward in God’s restoring love.
Christine loves words: having stimulating conversations with people, reading a variety of books, and most recently, the words she writes. She is a teacher who is just beginning to write for audiences other than herself in her journal or her students’ parents. Christine lives in Langley, B.C. and enjoys coffee, being outside, and making memories with her husband and four kids.