We’ve all been there.
In the middle of a fight with someone you love, and you say or do something that you know was hurtful/mean/disrespectful/fill-in-the-blank. Sure, they said some hurtful things too, but deep down you know that you crossed the line and you are just plain WRONG. So, what do you do?
Maybe you just rationalize that what they did was wrong too, so it equals out. Two wrongs make a right…right?
Maybe they call you on it, or you ‘fess up’ with something like “I’m sorry…you feel that way…”, which is just another way of saying “You’re just too sensitive” or “I’ll say I’m sorry, but you’re still in the wrong”. And then we act surprised when they take offense instead of apologizing back!
Maybe, if you’re feeling extra gracious, you might even straight up apologize: “Darling, I’m sorry I acted that way…” This might defuse the situation temporarily, but there’s still a tension left there that never truly gets resolved and really only adds one more cut to the eventual death by a thousand cuts.
This is where most people stop, and the relationship slowly breaks down.
“But I said I was sorry…what more can I do?”
Imagine that your ideal relationship is represented by these clasped hands. The fingers are interwoven forming a solid unit of strength in togetherness. It is intimate, full of trust and vulnerability as you come together in a perfect bond – almost like “one flesh”.
But when we start fighting, it’s like the hands turn into fists. Each party is really only looking out for self-intererests, trying to win the argument. Clenched up tight so as not to expose the inner soft area and risk being hurt.
But with hearts like this, how can you ever get back to the way it was?
The dismissive “I’m sorry” doesn’t really do it. You can say that with your fist/heart still clenched. Sometimes the “I’m sorry” is really only bait to get the other to do what you should do yourself.
You have to be the one who puts down your defenses and make yourself vulnerable.
The way you do that is not by throwing out a half-hearted apology. Even if you really mean it, you’re still only half way there. To bring the hurt to resolution there is one thing you MUST do.
You must admit you are wrong and ask them to forgive you.
There’s no way to fake this. You have to actually humble yourself, own up to your wrong, and ask for their hand in forgiveness. It’s a very vulnerable state because they are under no obligation to return the sentiment. But it’s the only way to bring true restoration.
It’s also the one thing in all the world that can bring a heated battle to an abrupt halt. We all know that the other ways don’t work..more shouting, louder shouting, name calling, past wrongs reliving, throwing things…they only make it worse.
It’s like the an old Aesop Fable of the Wind and the Sun:
THE WIND and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger. Suddenly they saw a traveller coming down the road, and the Sun said: “I see a way to decide our dispute. Whichever of us can cause that traveller to take off his cloak shall be regarded as the stronger. You begin.” So the Sun retired behind a cloud, and the Wind began to blow as hard as it could upon the traveller. But the harder he blew the more closely did the traveller wrap his cloak round him, till at last the Wind had to give up in despair. Then the Sun came out and shone in all his glory upon the traveller, who soon found it too hot to walk with his cloak on.
If you want to get back to the loving embrace that drew you together in the first place, you must not stop at just “I’m sorry” – bring it to a close. Ask for and grant forgiveness.
31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. 32 Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.