“I think you are angry.”
“Nope.” I spat out.
We were in our first year of marriage and driving north to visit friends.
“Well you sure seem angry.”
“I’m not,” I said staring at the red light we were waiting on.
Just breathe, I reminded myself. Stay calm.
“There is nothing wrong with admitting you are angry,” he said, a few minutes of silence later. “Anger is just an emotion. It doesn’t make you a bad person.”
I listened a little more intently. I had never heard that before.
“So, what if you are angry. Big deal. It would be better to admit you are angry and discuss it, than try and stuff it down and pretend you are not angry.”
He sighed. “Why is it so had for you to admit anything? To admit you are not perfect? To admit you are wrong?”
Ouch. I didn’t want to answer that question out loud.
We stopped for another light. He looked at me. I looked at him, trying to smile, but it felt so fake.
“Okay,” I spit out. “I am angry. I am angry at you. I am angry about this morning. I am angry.”
“Well,” he laughed. “Now don’t you feel better?”
Tears sprang to my eyes. Not with him laughing at me. No, I now felt like a failure.
He took my hand. “Do you know what? I love you when you are stubborn and don’t apologize, and I love you when you do. But it is so much easier to love you when you admit you are human and admit your faults. When you admit you are angry, when you really are angry. Just be honest. With yourself and me.”
Some conversations are tuning points.
Some conversations make us think and then come to new truth.
Some conversations we will remember in the future at just the right time.
This was one of those conversations.
I had always thought of myself as an apologizer. I don’t know how many times I had been told by my mother growing up, “Tell your sister you are sorry. Apologize to your brother.” And I had. I had always said the words, even if I had not always meant them.
But I had also been the perfect child in our family of six kids. The one where mom would say, “Why can’t you be like your sister?” and point to me. Because I worked so had to do the right thing, I ended up apologizing a lot less than my always-in-trouble older brother and independent-and who-cares younger sister.
Yes, I grew up thinking I was related to Mary Poppins. “Practically perfect in every way.”
And when I grew older and time had passed, I realized that my mom was very prideful. I don’t ever remember her apologizing. And I had adopted more of her attitude than was good for me.
As I thought over the next months, and even years, about why it was so hard for me to apologize, to admit I was wrong, I came back to the same thing. My pride was tripping me up. Causing me to stumble and keeping me from confessing.
Pride of wanting to be right.
Pride of wanting to defend my actions. (After all, my reasons were so good.)
Pride of wanting to appear almost perfect.
Pride of what others would think.
Pride of exposing the truth to myself and others.
Pride of appearing weak.
Pride of admitting fault.
My pride was a stumbling block and affected my relationships. Because one thing pride likes to do, is lie. Pride lies all sorts of convincing lies. Lies that keep us from the truth. From perusing love. From abundant grace. From growth and change. From deeper relationships. Pride is supposed to keep us from pain, but it doesn’t. Pride weaves elaborate lies that we tend to believe. Lies that in the end extract harsher consequences because of the tangle of deceit we create.
Some lies of pride:
Others wont’s like/love us if they knew the truth.
Hide. Never tell. It is safer.
Forgiveness is never free. We must work to earn our forgiveness.
Confessing makes us indebted to the person.
Asking forgiveness is admitting guilt and a sign of weakness.
Come on. Technically we are not guilty. Look for a loophole.
Don’t admit guilt unless we are 100% wrong. 96% or even 5% does not count.
We may not be forgiven, so why bother.
The other person screwed up too. Let them confess first.
Forgiveness is over rated.
Confessing may ruin us.
These lies have no truth in them. Satan wants us to believe these lies because then we will walk in fear, and not the light of forgiveness. Because then we will walk in the same old rut, and not newness and change. Because it will cut us off from community and help. Because when we are consumed with guilt and shame our eyes remain focused on our self, not on a God who redeems us, loves us, and pours abundant grace on our souls.
Pride is one of the main culprits that hinders our relationships with others. It is our pride that causes us to defend our actions. Justify and explain why we are in the right and turn and blame them for their wrong doing. Pride separates us from others. It causes us to lie to them and our self. It keeps us from doing the right thing in the relationship. It stops us from pursuing reconciliation, compromise, and forgiveness.
Often, we know we are wrong, but it is our pride that keeps us from doing the right thing.
How to chip away the stumbling block of pride:
1. Strive for humility. Humility is seeing our self and God as we both really are. He is the only perfect one. We are the sinful one. And yet God want to have a relationship with us. He wants to parent us. Love us. Give us all sorts of good gifts. Call us beloved. When we realize that we are dependent on God and his forgiveness and grace (which he freely gives), that creates in us a desire to change and grow.
2. Take responsibility. It is so much easier than explaining why we didn’t really do something everyone knows we really did. Making excuses that make no sense, or trying to argue that it was really was someone else’s fault is just plain nonsense. Stop stepping away and instead take responsibility. People will be relieved, and our trust ratings will soar.
3. Just do it. Practice apologizing; it will become easier. Start with little things. Move to bigger things. Or do it the other way. Once you have confessed a big thing, other confessions may seem easier.
I remember the day I confessed to a big thing (Yes, I said the words out loud that I was not perfect!) My heart was racing, my palms sweaty. All the spit in my mouth had turned to dust bunnies. I knew my voice would crack. I knew my world would fall apart. But I did it. I squeaked out the words. And guess what? I survived. The world did not collapse. My heart kept beating. And of course, no one died of surprise. They already knew it. And still loved me.
I kept confessing. And it got easier.
The same will happen for us if we keep apologizing when we need to. The silly thing is, when we confess our wrong doing, we are usually not surprising anyone. Often everyone sees we need to confess before we realize it. If we have yelled at the family, they all know we yelled at them. There is no surprise when we say we should not have yelled at them and ask their forgiveness. Often there is just gratitude from them that we took responsibility for our actions, and now they can stop telling us we were wrong.
4. Keep it Simple. Forget the perfect words. Just say: “I am sorry for – – – -, please forgive me.”
Remember, if we justify or make excuses, then we are no longer apologizing. “I am sorry I hurt your feelings, but you need to be nicer to me,” does not qualify. When we add a “but,” we are often justifying and blaming them. Saying, “I am sorry you feel that way,” is also not an apology. It is really telling them that their feelings are wrong.
After we say we are sorry, we can also offer some sort of restitution or help, if appropriate. “I know I didn’t mow the lawn like I said I would. Can I now clean the bathroom for you?”
I can’t say that I don’t still let my pride get the best of me. I do. But my husband was right. We are easier to love when we acknowledge we are human. When we admit our mistakes.
It has taken me a long time, but I have learned that despite my aversions to it, confession is good for my soul. It helps restore relationships, keeps pride in check, stop the blaming and justifying of my actions, and passes grace and forgiveness out to others and myself.
So, go ahead.
Confess when necessary.
Abundant grace awaits.
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Join the discussion: What lies of pride do you believe?