Interestingly, Donald Trump shared that although he is a believing Christian, he has never sought forgiveness from God. Has he sought forgiveness from his wives? I wonder. No one is perfect, after all.
To start with, let's ask: what is an apology? In reality, it is a statement of admission that you were not sufficiently concerned with another person's feelings and you did something or said something that was disrespectful and maybe somehow harmful to them. Wouldn't we want to say we were sorry if we were so neglectful or worse yet, purposely hurtful? Why would offering an apology be so difficult especially after hurting your spouse!?
Here is a list of reasons why people may not want to say that they are sorry:
1. It threatens our ego to admit that we are imperfect. Yes, we all acknowledge the obvious on a conscious level. But on an unconscious level, we may feel threatened with a reality check that challenges our fragile ego.
Let's consider a couple where at least one partner is verbally abusive. The offending spouse may be acting out for the following reasons:
- They think so little of themselves that anyone who would stay with them must really be pitiful.
- They are abusive because they are trying to convince themselves that they are better than they really feel. They try to achieve this by pulling their partner down.
Ironically, the offending spouse now has even more to be ashamed of.
2. We may not want to admit to ourselves that we are not always nice.
3. We don't want to examine our own self. So instead we justify our behavior by blaming the offended person as being too sensitive.
4. Your apology will reinforce your spouse's bad behavior. You felt justified in venting your justified hurt. Unless your spouse seeks forgiveness and mends their ways, you would be stupid to seek forgiveness.
5. Only weak people apologize.
Here are some ideas to help you overcome the above reasons:
1. Brace yourself: we are all imperfect. There is not one spouse who has not said something that they later regretted. It is far wiser to stop the pain and move forwards in a positive direction.
2. Life is about balancing our desires and our responsibilities. Even nice people struggle to choose properly. Hopefully, most of your actions are kind ones. When you realize that you goofed, turn back, don't keep on going in the wrong direction. It takes maturity and confidence to realize and admit that we were wrong.
3. We mostly go through life trying to enjoy ourselves. Much of the rest of the time we pay the price for being able to do so. Working inside or outside the home, studying and running errands take up a lot of our time. To spend the little that remains actually analyzing our behavior is not always what we want to do. This thing called mortality is really heavy, so we struggle emotionally to keep safe and that may be even at the expense of another person's feelings.
How about assuming that you are not as kind as you think you are? As you refine your character, you can rightfully take ever greater pride in your accomplishments; at least until you work on your humility :-) Speaking of which, back to Trump: even if all of his positive qualities and accomplishments are accurate, and there are no doubt many, he seems to needlessly personally insult people and most certainly hurts feelings. Finding that quality charming reminds me of the child who sides with the bully to feel like a winner. (Please note that I respect Mr. Trump for bringing honest discussion to the political arena. But at least in your marriage, being honest and being hurtful do not have to be synonymous. By the way, I am not discussing any political issues. The values of many other politicians with regards to honesty and integrity could be used as examples in other discussions).
4. Is your spouse out to get you or make the best of your marriage? Regardless of who apologizes first, you should be able to then analyze what went wrong. Why were you hurt? What needs to change? Very often the anger that comes out as an insult started as a frustration over unmet needs. Rather than worrying about reinforcing your partner's bad behavior, both spouses have to be willing to look at themselves in the mirror and make changes.
Even if you are resentful of something that your spouse has done or continues to do, your offering an apology does not excuse their need to address your concerns. Likewise, accepting an apology is not a "get out of jail free" card that will excuse the offender. They will not receive a carte blanche to be inconsiderate and avoid the consequences of their behavior.
5. Only fragile people are afraid to apologize. It takes strength to admit that we start out imperfect and need to spend our lives investing in our development. An attitude of "take me as I am" and therefore I need never apologize reflects stunted development. Even strong and very masculine biblical figures such as Judah and King David admitted to being wrong. They also both wept. It takes strength to separate out those of our actions which we need to improve from our core which is priceless.
Once you are able to apologize, you will find that there will be a lot of opportunities to practice your skills. That is one of the benefits of being married. Right?
And please remember that an apology is just the beginning of a process of improving your marriage. Next, we'll explore what happens after the apology. If you have a lot to apologize for, reading 'How to Repent in Your Marriage' will help set you on the right track.