Why is it so difficult for me to make things right with my wife? I cannot tell you the number of times that I have replayed a situation or conversation in my mind, only to be both judge and jury and be found “innocent.” As a guy, I have this very unbiblical perception that being a “good husband” means to be shown right in all that I do or to never show weakness.
The very fact that I think this way at times only serves making things right that much harder.
The problem with our apologies is that we want to minimize the effects of our sin because, quite frankly, the showcasing of my own brokenness is just too painful. And so I temper it.
Ever uttered this type of apology or heard it from another person?
“I am sorry if I offended you.”
“I am sorry I snapped at you but it is just so frustrating when you do that!”
“I’m sorry – I just don’t know why I am that way.”
“I am sorry for what I did, but you were just as guilty.”
All of these are poor forms of apologizing. And part of the problem is that we do not truly understand what “making things right” is all about.
God is all about reconciliation
And by reconciliation, He means the restoration of favor.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)
So in day-to-day relationships, when I have done or said something to commit an offense against another, the goal is to reconcile. And that word literally means “to bring into agreement or harmony.”
In my list above of poor forms of apologizing, did you perhaps disagree with my last one of “I’m sorry”? You might be thinking, “Shouldn’t I say ‘I’m sorry’? Isn’t that good enough?”
In a word? No.
And because of our propensity to minimize our sin and escalate our rightness, we fail to resolve conflict, all the while feeling satisfied that we uttered the words “I’m sorry.” As if we did enough and now the burden is on our spouse to just get over it.
Part of our issue is that we simply do not understand the biblical framework of how to reconcile with another. And for you married guys out there reading this, pay attention. I have lost a lot of ground in my relationship with my wife as well as prolonged conflict because I did not use biblical principles for reconciliation.
So if you are tired and worn out over the “I try to apologize but it never makes a difference” mindset, read on. You may just need to reframe how you make things right using a biblical model.
Yes, guys, that means to make the first move. Don’t dance around the mess; stop into the mess.
“Hey babe, things seem a bit out of sync between us. Anything going on?”
Or “You seem upset after our last conversation. Did I offend you?”
Just last week, this happened with my wife and I. We were out of sorts about a situation. The problem was that in the replaying of it in my mind, I felt as if I was right in my response. My mental jury is always in my corner! Dave Harvey has some awesome advice in his book When Sinners Say “I Do.”
He says that first, in humility, I must suspect myself. Pride always suspects others. Second, instead of looking to my wife’s change, I look into my own heart for where I must change. In other words, in integrity, I inspect myself.
I must not listen to my wife through my lens. I must be willing to listen to her through her lens. And I admit, it is challenging. I just do not always think like my wife. She is a complex creature! But humility demands I listen and get her perspective – without defending myself.
3) State the offense in biblical terms
We water down our sin by statements such as “I should not have said that.” or “I was too passionate.” or “I made a mistake.” Rather, true reconciliation is about how what I did or said primarily offended God and that overflow also offended my wife.
“I realize that my sarcasm with you was not a loving way to speak with you. God calls me to speech that is uplifting and I chose to make my point a priority. And that was just selfishness on my part.”
And don’t think that I just made up that statement! Real life example from my own marriage!
“Selfishness” is a specific and biblical way to define my sin. Which then leads to a biblical solution: love, as defined in I Corinthians 13.
Is this process difficult and challenging? Yes, but it gets to the root of the problem. The foundational issue was that my agenda overrode my love for my wife. I was more about my point getting understood than serving my wife in love and truth. I did not follow Philippians 2:3:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
I must tie my sin to an offense to God.
4) “I’m sorry” is not enough
And here is what I mean by that. Saying sorry is not enough! Here is what should be coming out of my mouth.
“Hon, I am sorry I chose to be selfish and unkind with my words and I appreciate your letting me know about this. Will you forgive me for my selfishness? God wants me to pursue you like Jesus pursues His church and I did not do that. I want God to change me.”
The danger of not reconciling things biblically is that if I do not define my sin in biblical terms I will never experience change though bearing biblical fruit. Change just becomes “doing better” or “not doing that again.” And conflicts remain unresolved. If the Word of God does not engage your spirit, you will not be transformed in your words or actions.
So I would challenge you to put this into practice. And in the situation I described last week with my wife, this process for both of us resolved the conflict quickly and put us back in the path of joy.
God knows what He is doing.