‘So if you remember that a friend has something against you, leave your sacrifice there beside the altar and go and apologize and be reconciled to him, and then come and offer your sacrifice to God.’ (Matthew 5: 23-24)
My marriage has provided me with many opportunities to apologize. In fact, I’ve had so much practice that now when I realize that I have acted ‘less than loving’ towards my husband, I usually am aware of my behavior at least as soon as he is. There are still those times when he has to point out my offensive behavior.
However, now instead of defending myself, I apologize that he had to show it to me before I saw it. I ‘own’ it and apologize that he had to deal with it.
I have not always had so much grace in this area. There were times in the past that I used an apology to manipulate. If I recognized that my behavior was about to reap an unpleasant consequence, I would rush to apologize. My message was, ‘Please don’t get angry. I have apologized so now you should not hold me accountable.’ My apology was an attempt to control his mood.
At other times, I would demand an apology from my husband. I came to realize that an apology extracted in this way is worth little. His apology to get me off ‘his back’ did not indicate sorrow for his behavior. I learned it only meant he was afraid of my disapproval and criticism if he refused my demand. A false apology has no redemptive meaning or value.
An apology is very personal. By it, your loved one knows that you are distressed by your harmful behavior. It demonstrates genuine sorrow and accepts responsibility for your actions.
One of the steps to maintaining a healthy lifestyle that is promoted in many recovery groups is to ‘continue to take daily inventories and when wrong, promptly admit it.’ Consider making this a daily practice. If you do, you will create an opportunity for closeness as well as a commitment to avoiding further harm. But no matter how the one you have apologized to responds, God honors a contrite heart and He will accept your sacrifice.
God, give me the courage to apologize and ask for forgiveness. Remind me that it is through the door of humility that I have a chance to reconcile with those whom I have offended. And through Jesus Christ, I have a guarantee to reconcile with you! For ‘the Holy One says this: I live in that high and holy place where those with contrite, humble spirits dwell; and I refresh the humble and give new courage to those with repentant hearts—I will lead them and comfort them, helping them to mourn and to confess their sins’ (Isaiah 57:15). Amen.