In April of 2001, one of the top news stories involved a collision between a U.S. military plane and a Chinese jet, forcing the U.S. plane to land on the Chinese island Hainan. Twenty-four Americans crew members were held hostage, with the Chinese facing off against the United States. The Chinese rulers were unwilling to let the Americans go until they received an apology from the United States for violating their air space, but the U.S. refused, saying they had nothing to apologize for.
Eventually, the U.S. issued an apology—sort of. The official letter from the U.S. to China was carefully worded to avoid any admission of responsibility. Now, I am not even going to begin to pretend I know anything about foreign policy and dealing with national security, other nations, and the like. But I do know that in marriage, sometimes one or both spouses can treat conflict as if it is an international incident. For most regular folks (including husbands and wives who love each other intensely) the two hardest words in the English language to say are “I’m sorry.”
If you Google “the art of apology” you will find countless articles, books, and resources that tell you how and when to say “I’m sorry.” There are even books and seminars for how to apologize to your spouse. How about this for a simple “art of apology” in marriage:
- As soon as you realize your spouse has been hurt by something you said or did, say “I’m sorry” immediately.
- Regardless of whether or not you believe he or she should be hurt over what happened, say “I’m sorry” immediately.
- Whether or not you felt justified in what you did that hurt your mate, say “I’m sorry” immediately.
- Don’t wait, and don’t add a “but” to your apology (especially a condescending remark!); “I’m truly sorry you’re upset, but I don’t know how anyone could think that way.”
- Don’t try to blame your spouse for something you said or did to hurt him/her, “I’m sorry YOU misunderstood what I was trying to do.”
- Don’t go into long rationalizing explanations. “If you knew the day I’ve had and how what you said just triggered something within me, then I think you would be able to understand why I snapped at you.”
Now, the idea is not to walk around living in guilt or always being the martyr in the relationship, apologizing for everything all the time. Part of marriage is living with each others quirks. If you take offense at every little annoyance, then you can expect to have a tumultuous and miserable relationship. But when your spouse is hurt, their pain is real to them whether you understand it or not. Too many times, we damage our marriage relationships because of either foolish pride, or because we can’t accept responsibility for our words or actions that create problems, or because we want to move on quickly and minimize a problem rather than let our mates heal. Whether the offense is minor and easily cleared up, or it is something major that will require days, weeks, months, or even years of rebuilding trust, the first step is to own up to your words and actions that hurt your mate. The first step is always to just simply say, “I’m sorry.”
We all make mistakes. We all need forgiveness for any relationship to work. But the most significant move toward healing is having the humility to say “I’m sorry.” Nothing more. Nothing less. Just “I’m sorry.” And really, really mean it.
What does God want from my marriage?
A Weekend Marriage Enrichment Retreat
Friday-Sunday, September 13-15, 2013
Fall Creek Falls State Park Inn
Limited to 25 couples
Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more info
If you are in the Rutherford/ Davidson/ Wilson County, TN area and are looking for a great marriage small group, A Blessed Promise will meet every Wednesday night in August, September, and October at 7 p.m. at the Smyrna Church of Christ. This class will help couples see their marriage as a wonderful and unique participation in the Kingdom of God. As couples study God’s Word they will see how His love, grace, forgiveness, and mercy are lived and taught within the context of marriage, and how a Christian couple’s marriage can be one of the most powerful witnesses of Christ to those around them. The class will be made up of several discussion-based small groups with people who are either already married or looking toward marriage. (Childcare for all ages will be provided through the Wednesday night Bible class program.)