if asked, the majority of people would say the most important words we can ever use in our marriages are “i love you.” i disagree.
of far greater importance are the words, “i’m sorry.”
“i’m sorry” is a much louder and affirming version of “i love you.” it speaks volumes. it says we care. it shows we see the bigger picture. it affirms value. it seldom needs further explanation. when it is delivered with sincerity, i cancels out wrong and can re-establish trust.
“i’m sorry” accepts blame.
an honest “i’m sorry” requires absolute humility…one of the greatest needs in any healthy relationship. “i’m sorry” means that i’m the problem and you’re not. “i’m sorry” says that i will take the responsibility for making things right and take you off the hook.
“i’m sorry” sets the table for forgiveness to take place. it gives the other person the open door that is needed to wander back into a place where it was no longer safe. “i’m sorry” creates breathing room. “i’m sorry” says there are no surprises lurking behind that door.
i’m not talking about forced apology. you know…the kind where parents say to their ratty kids, “tell her you’re sorry. tell her. right now.” that’s a con. that sets everybody up for failure.
(by the way, if you’re a parents that insists on making your kids apologize for their interpersonal transgressions, you need to, at least, be willing to spend an equal amount of time teaching your kid why sorrow for sin is important…and not why “getting caught” is a bummer…)
what i’m talking about here is genuine, heartfelt, life-changing, life-giving sorrow and repentance for having hurt, undermined, betrayed, alienated, or disrespected the one you claim to love. “i’m sorry” are the words that should roll off your lips regularly and effortlessly. they should be music to your spouse’s ears …unless you have to do it too often. then you’ve got a whole other problem on your hands.
one last note. stop asking people to forgive you when you wronged them. it may be their responsibility, but it’s not yours to put them on the spot to do it.
asking people to forgive our mistakes or hurtful behavior is about the most self-centered thing we can do. it’s as ludicrous as walking up to someone and saying, “pleeeease tell me you’re sorry. pleeeese tell me you feel bad for what you’ve done. pleeeese tell me you’ll never do it again.” ridiculous.
you don’t want to coerce anybody into a meaningless, fake apology. why would we want a forgiveness offered by the same motivation? come on. offer your apology and trust that god will use it for the good of the other person and the rebuilding of your relationship. the forgiveness you feel you need will come when they are ready and able to give it.