One of the most difficult aspects of my marriage is offending my wife and then having to make it right. Transparency here: I do not like being wrong with my wife and it kills me when I hurt her through selfish words or actions.
When I am pressed to make things right with my wife, I can often try to so quickly get to the what of a restored relationship that I can often overlook and marginalize the how. Meaning, how I get to that restored relationship. In the end, my attempt at an apology does not restore. My wife may say “OK” to my “Hon, I am sorry.” but we end up no closer to restoration than before.
So what happened? As a guy, I can easily get frustrated that “I tried but she just is not willing to move forward.” Perhaps, but it may be worth looking at your techniques.
To restore my relationship with my wife demands on the front end that I understand, from a biblical framework, the process God designed. And if I do not grasp this, I am going to leave my relationship with my wife in a worse place than if I had not tried to reconcile at all.
So what should the process look like? First, I would like to talk about what an apology is not. Second, I would like to conclude with some more biblical strategies.
What an apology is not
- It is not simply saying “I am sorry.” No specifics. And God is always specific about sin.
- It is not saying, “I am sorry if I hurt you.” If I hurt you? Man up and ask her how you hurt her. Then just admit it.
- It is not couching your offense in generic terms. “I am sorry for the way I responded to our talk earlier.”
- It is not “I am sorry for blowing up, but you sounded like you were blaming me.” You just placed the reason for your brokenness in your wife’s court. Bad form.
- It is not “I am sorry. I am such a moron.” Perhaps you are, but all that garners is a “No you’re not!” response and the real issue is overlooked. It is still pride – instead of building yourself up, you take the negative path and tear yourself down. You are still thinking too much of you.
- It is not “I am sorry. I will try harder next time not to do that.” God did not ask you to try harder or do better. You have missed what it means to abide in Jesus (John 15).
If you want to find the common thread to why all of these are poor excuses for apologies, the reason is that they lack a key aspect: repentance. An apology to your wife is not a promise to be a better husband in the future. It is not simply an acknowledgment that “I blew it.” It demands a changing of the desires and a turning of the heart – impossibilities that only God can do.
Making things right with your wife demands a certain heart posture as found in Isaiah 66:2:
All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord.
But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.
Simply put: God is all about the posture of my heart in reconciling with my wife.
What an apology is
So let’s craft a scenario to give some clarity. Let’s say my wife says something to me and I respond to her with a snarky comment and sarcastic tone. Purely hypothetical.
- Certainly “I am sorry” is a good place to begin, but then follow with calling it what God calls it. “Hon, I am so sorry for responding to you in an unkind way. That was a selfish way to speak to you and it was wrong. I have no excuse.”
- Why was this an offense to both God and your wife? “And by being sarcastic, I was not loving you like Jesus loves His church. In that moment, I was loving me and my agenda was more important.”
- Ask forgiveness. “Babe, would you please forgive me for not loving you well and hurting you by being rude to you?”
- Get in community. “And I want you to pray with me about this. I know it is not the first time this has happened and I need the Holy Spirit to help me look more like Jesus in my responses to you.”
- And it also deserves to be mentioned that your first offense is against God. He loves a broken and repentant spirit (Psalm 51).
I can tell you firsthand that this is a very humbling experience. If I do not see my sin clearly I will never see the redemptive power of Jesus clearly. When I minimize the offense with poorly-crafted apologies, I minimize my dependency on God for change and I show grace to be insignificant. This is not an easy process but it does push me to a correct heart posture and view of God.
Don’t make an offense worse by trying to skate over the process of repentance. Experience the freedom of restoration that brings glory to God.