We must learn to keep short accounts with the people we love. Not too long ago, when I was writing a book chapter about the topic of forgiveness, real life paid me a visit. My wife Julie and I had a heated argument about mowing our yard—and I raised my voice in anger. I see myself as being in charge of the lawn mowing, and though my wife always wants to help me with it, her help turns into her wanting to do things her way. But her way and my way have distinct differences, which has led to an ongoing argument that makes me feel disrespected as a leader (leader of the mowing!) and that makes her feel unloved, as if I don’t want to do things with her—as if I don’t want her help. After our most recent argument about this, we kept our distance from each other. But when I saw her drive off in the car by herself, I called her to ask her to come home so that we can talk things out. How the yard gets mowed isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things, so I asked the Lord to give me wisdom, including the right words and tone, so I could apologize and explain my feelings without becoming defensive.
I love Ruth Bell Graham’s comment: “A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” I apologized for raising my voice at Julie that day. And isn’t it interesting how different people define “yelling”? If my voice holds any hint of emotion, my volume raised even a tiny bit, Julie calls that yelling. But I grew up with constant loud yelling, so I define yelling as something loud enough to make someone cover his or her ears. My apology paved the way for the reconciliation of our relationship and another attempt to analyze what had caused our argument in the first place.
I’d like to say that I apologized easily, but apologizing continues to be one of the most difficult things for me to do. Why is it so hard to say “I am sorry” to someone? These three words are powerful when spoken sincerely and without additional “buts.” There is a big difference between extending an argument and ending one. Saying “I’m sorry, but . . .” usually negates the apology. The first time I apologized to Julie, I felt I needed to be heard, so I said I’m sorry, but you need to know how frustrated I was because of things you said and did . . . The following morning, I was confronted by a Scripture during my morning devotions. Proverbs 12:18 says, “Reckless words pierce like a sword.” I sensed a deep conviction from the Holy Spirit and realized that my words, spoken in anger, had in fact pierced my wife deeply. I am learning that it is never appropriate to yell at a spouse and that I should always apologize for that—even if I think I am in the right in the argument. The second time I tried to apologize, I simply said “I am sorry.”
Reflections: Do you have an on-going argument or disagreement with your spouse over something that really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things? Can you make a creative plan or negotiate a practical compromise so it doesn’t get blown out of proportion over and over again? Are you guilty of negating your apologies with added “buts?” Practice saying the three words “I am sorry” with a period.
Reckless words pierce like a sword