My sole goal of this week’s marriage blog is simple: I want you to stop saying “I’m sorry.”
Relax…get ya some tea (Moroccan is my fav)…and I’ll explain.
Two weeks ago we began a new series entitled “Marital Catchphrases” in which we look at the random phrases we toss out almost flippantly to our spouses while potentially losing the meaning behind the words. The scripture for this series is: Proverbs 13:3 “Careful words make for a careful life; careless talk may ruin everything.” (The Message) In our last blog, we attacked the simple, yet overused catchphrase “Yes Dear.” Today we hit another one.
“Did you break this?” “I’m sorry.”
“You bought what?!?” “I’m sorry.”
“I can’t believe you said that to the kids?” “I’m sorry.”
“You invited your mother?” “I’m sorry.”
This simple phrase that our parents taught us so well has been so over-used and abused. I think of when my parents were trying to teach my sister to say those words. I remember it well. Rachael hit me. My parents saw her and sternly told her, “Don’t you ever hit your brother. If it happens, you need to say ‘I’m sorry.’” What my parents said and what Rachael heard were two different things. My parents where trying to teach her remorse and manners. Rachael heard something else. She began to hit me while quickly following up the punch with a quick “I’m sorry.” It got so bad she was actually saying “I’m sorry” while her fist was flying through the air. To her very young mind, it was the escape from all consequence and responsibilities that were connected with her actions.
We adults are not all that different.
The more I counsel, the more I hear the same very disturbing words: “When my spouse says they’re sorry, it doesn’t mean anything to me anymore.”
How do you get to that point? It elementary my dear Watson (sorry…I’ve been watching Sherlock). It’s the same mentality that my preschool sister used that we still try to enforce today. If I say “I’m sorry,” then things will go back to normal and I don’t have to face any consequences and take greater responsibility over my life. We use these simple words as band aids for wounds that need serious treatment. The words “I’m sorry” have been used over and over and over and over…
…till the phrase has virtually no meaning..
It becomes a worse situation when that spouse really does have remorse over their actions and their spouse cannot take their word for it. It didn’t have any meaning before. It doesn’t have any meaning to them now.
Psalm 34:13 says, “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.” If you and I are professing remorse with our lips but do not possess it in our hearts and our actions, we are not apologizing. We are simply speaking deceit. Something needs to change. Something must be transformed.
Here’s some help: First, confront the issue. James 5:16 tells us that confession leads to healing. Talk to your spouse about the revelation you’ve come to. Confess your deceit and bring it into the light. Quit hiding it and letting the darkness grow something that doesn’t belong in your life.
Secondly, Apologize correctly. Get rid of the words “I’m sorry.” Somebody taught us something a long time ago about apologies. Take out the words “I’m sorry” and replace them with “Will you forgive me?” There is an amazing difference. There’s something about the words “Will you forgive me?” that demands a two-fold action:
1 – For the person apologizing, there’s an action of humility and recognition that what you’ve done was wrong and hurtful. You are humbling yourself by removing excuse and positioning yourself and your spouse for healing.
2 – For the spouse receiving the apology, there is a reciprocated action demanded. There is only TWO responses to the words”Will you forgive me?” You will either hear “no” or “yes I forgive you.” There’s no other option. If you say, “yes I forgive you,” then you are position yourself in a place of acting and living in forgiveness.
I remember quite a few years ago, Anne had done something wrong. What I remember about the situation wasn’t what she had done to me. It was the end of the skirmish that sticks in my mind. We were driving and she looked over at me and said, “Honey, will you forgive me?”
My reply, “Yes.”
After about a 3 second pause, she said again, “Honey, do you forgive me?”
I knew what she was asking. We had agreed some time before that we would always apologize to each other in that manner. We felt it positioned our marriage to walk in forgiveness. To express the words “I forgive you” would put the onus on the other to let go of anger and bitterness and ACTUALLY forgive. I remember not wanted to say it. I wanted to linger in my anger…
…but that’s just it isn’t it? We need to let go. We need to forgive without stipulation the way Christ forgives us.
One more time, “Will you forgive me?” “Yes babe…I forgive you.”
This stuff may not be a big deal to you. But the more “catchphrases” we can eliminate, the more we can position our marriages to walk in the heath that the Lord has designed for us to live in.
Thanks for letting me ramble…