Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Swallow Your Pride

It can be excruciating. Dreadful.  You may have a tendency to avoid it like The Plague.  Few things are as bitter as the humble pie that is digested when we do it.  It’s a word that we rarely use, but is called for often: apology.

Smart creatures we humans are.  So much so, that our tendency is to always believe we are correct.  About everything.  All the time.  Our guts tell us so, even if our hearts waver.

Perhaps you are having a friendly disagreement with a co-worker.  Soon, that laughter wanes into a wry smile, and then pretty soon that smile is gone, and the eyebrows furrow.  You are certain that you are right, and you will stake your life on it!  

This happened to me several years ago.  I was certain that UGA faced Penn State in the 1982 Sugar Bowl, and Pittsburgh in the 1983 Sugar Bowl.  I bantered about with a co-worker, who said I was wrong.  I was absolutely confident. But, so was he.  We were at an impasse.  What happens at an impasse of this nature?  Yep – a wager!

We went straight to the trusty ole internet.  I could taste victory.  I couldn’t wait to rub it in. The Sugar Bowl results from years past began to load on the page.  We scrolled down the page, and just like I fully expected…OH NO…wait a second…this can’t be!  So, we had to look at another web site, and another.  For the love of humanity…I was…w-w-wr-wro-wrong.  It still pains me to even type it.

Being humiliated by a co-worker is one thing, but what happens when it involves your spouse?  I’m sure you’ve never done this, but once or twice in my 15-year marriage, I’ve said or done something that hurt my spouse in some way.  Even today, my initial tendency is to defend myself and explain away the problem.  Interestingly, the more I turn into an attorney, the bigger the problem becomes.
Humbling yourself and apologizing to your spouse is difficult.  I’m slowly (too slowly, likely) learning that if I will just accept responsibility and offer a heart-felt apology, we both begin to heal.  Being “right” doesn’t really pay off like you think it will.  Trust me.

Spouses really have a tough time with this.  Each feels justified to act a certain way or do certain things.  My good friend Steve Roach once told me he could solve virtually every marriage conflict with three words: “Get over yourself.” 

Scripture is clear that we are to treat others how we want to be treated. When Paul wrote to the church at Caesarea Philippi, he encouraged them to “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3).

That is tough stuff right there.  But, when we refuse to apologize for things we’ve done wrong, we leave less room for forgiveness and grace to be offered.  Instead, hearts harden, and minds wonder.
It’s brutal to have to swallow your pride when it involves your husband or wife. No one enjoys it.  

But, I struggle the most with apologizing to my kids.  I don’t mean things like, “I’m sorry you didn’t get to eat dessert,” or “I’m sorry, we just don’t have time to watch a movie.”  I mean saying you’re sorry for treating them harshly or putting them down.

I tend to be mild-mannered, and have a long fuse.  But a couple times as a parent, I have said or done hurtful things to my kids.  On the two occasions I can recall this happening, my heart ached.  I knew I hurt my son, and it was unbearable to me.  I can remember on both occasions going up to his room, sitting beside him on the bed, looking him in the eyes and apologizing to him.  Each time, he said, “It’s OK dad, I forgive you.”  Not only did this make him feel better, but I knew each of our broken hearts had begun to mend rapidly.

Have you treated someone unfairly?  Have you been wrong? Did you say something that hurt somebody, and have let it linger far too long? Take’s Steve’s advice: get over yourself.   

Then, go apologize and experience the freedom offered through forgiveness!

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