Saying "I'm Sorry"
12/01/12 07:15 Filed in: Marriage
We all have been taught at one time or another in our lives that we need to say we are sorry. We are told that when we do something wrong we need to admit it and then seek to make it right with the person we have offended. This act of confession & making a relationship right is something that was established long ago. In the Old Testament we see the importance of admitting a wrong and making it right. Leviticus 5:5 says, “when anyone becomes aware that they are guilty in any of these matters, they must confess in what way they have sinned.” Not only are we to confess our sin we are to do it from a heart that truly understands the pain that was caused. David in the Psalms confessed his sin in many different circumstances. He says, “I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.” When was the last time you were actually troubled over what you did wrong? So true confession is a process of understanding the depth of what I have done wrong. It is almost common sense to anyone you talk to, yet when it comes to adult relationships we struggle to actually admit anything we did was not for a good reason regardless of how much it hurt the other person.
In marriage confession and forgiveness is a huge key to building and maintaining an intimate relationship. Who wants to be married to someone who believes they are never wrong and seems to be an expert at pointing out every time you are wrong? Yet that is how many of us live and act in our marriages. We are experts on our spouses short comings and failures and we are blind, or at least feel we have good reasons, for our own failures. So rather than drawing our spouse towards us we become the source of pain that pushes our spouse away, which we then point out as one of our spouses problems that needs to be fixed. If we are to have intimacy in our marriage we need to put into practice what we were taught as a kid and what we teach our own kids today.
Confession: Admitting When You Are Wrong
Confession is something that few of us like to practice in our society because it puts us in a one down position and we don’t like to be seen as failing at anything. We know we are not perfect, but we really don’t want someone else to know it because we feel it puts us in too vulnerable of a position. After all, we have good reasons for why we did what we did. Those reasons usually have to do with something the other person did that “caused” us to respond the way we did. So rather than confess anything or admit we are wrong, we feel at some level our spouse deserved what he/she got which causes us to feel a sense of being vindicated or that our actions where somehow just given the circumstances. The reality is, we are rationalizing our behavior and selling the intimacy we could have in our marriage for the cheap imitation of feeling superior to our spouse or getting even. If we are to grow close to our spouse we have to admit when we are wrong.
There are some who do confess when they are wrong, usually after it is so obvious to anyone who looked at it or because we want to hurry up and get past the conflict. So we confess quickly with little or no feeling or heart put into it, almost like we are demanding the other person move on, like we did when we were made to do it as kid. The motivation is not to truly understand our wrong and make the relationship right. That would feel like rubbing our noses in what we did wrong. Instead we just want to move on from the incident as quickly as possible. The result is usually our spouse questioning whether we really are sorry or not responding in the gracious way we felt our apology warranted. Then we get mad all over again, this time at the fact that our spouse won’t move on as quickly as we think he/she should and we start the argument all over again, this time with more ammunition about how our spouse has no grace. This game we play with confession and forgiveness only reinforces the fact that too many of us are out to be right instead of being intimate. We want intimacy but without any kind of cost. The reality is that you cannot have intimacy without being willing to be vulnerable. If you are unwilling to be vulnerable, the best you can have is proximity.
How to Seek Forgiveness
True confession and forgiveness, starts with a true realization of how I have wronged my spouse. It is not just to get over the situation or to quickly move on from an argument so I can sleep at night or move on to my next thing knowing I have resolved the conflict. Instead it is truly feeling how it must have felt to be my spouse when I offended him/her.
From that heart I confess and admit my wrong to let my spouse know I understand the pain I caused and I am truly sorry for the way I hurt him/her. Then I ask for forgiveness and wait for my spouse to respond. He/she may not be ready to forgive me and that is ok. I need to give the time and space for my spouse to process the event in his/her own way. It is important to never confuse forgiveness with reconciliation. Forgiveness can be given but that does not mean that everything is back to normal instantly. Forgiveness is not the ultimate do over. There was still pain and there is still a cautiousness that results that needs to be worked through for true reconciliation to happen. The pain we cause our spouse has consequences and those consequences usually have to do with the time it takes to recover to a place of full reconciliation and intimacy. But without confession and forgiveness, true reconciliation cannot happen.
So when you have wronged your spouse, even if your spouse wronged you in the process. Take some time to consider your part, confess your part to your spouse and ask for forgiveness, In doing so you demonstrate your commitment to him/her, empathy for their pain, and you start a process of reconciliation that leads to greater intimacy.