Have you ever been in a situation, where both parties are angered and both believe the other should apologize first for actions less than good? I certainly have, I’ve been in relationships and friendships where the toxicity was such, I became paralyzed by the desire to seek honor as a means of capitulation, rather than making the first move of repentance and apologizing for my actions. The result being a further diminishment of light and descending into a pit of anger and resentment which would take me a decade or more to be removed from. As perspective is the best lens we can look through, while we try and maintain a foundation of objective truth, I realized I was fighting three fronts at one time. The first being myself, my ego was such, I wouldn’t really listen to anyone, or anything they had to say no matter the benefit to my life. I was afraid of the pain it would cause me, and the thought of such pain wasn’t something I was willing to put myself through. The second, was although the people around me didn’t put into words their hurt, they were hurt. I let them down, I cause what seemed to be a reflection of light to become dimmed right before their very eyes. Imagine watching a tragedy unfold before your eyes and there is nothing you can do about it? This is what I realized I was causing to the people who were closest to me, and loved me with unconditional boundaries. The final and the most important front to my life was the very human desire for sin as I push away all which was good and true for the promise of desire and darkness. I didn’t want to bring myself to the very painful truth, my “sorry” and repentant behavior was all which was needed to begin to heal and allow the light of Christ in my life once again.
As a child, I spent most of my time determining I didn’t want to answer to anyone, and this included parents, friends, and yes God. Since I wasn’t being struck down by a bolt of lightning every time I lied, I figured a justification of what I was said was all which was ever needed for explanation. The irony being, one of the most prolific messages my parents would ever give me was the need to stop with excuses and live up to the truth. However, this was inconvenient to me and my purposes of fulfilling my dreams and goals in life. Now this isn’t to say I was rude or distasteful to people I met, but rather it means I found justification in doing what I wanted, when I wanted even if it was problematic or hurtful to others. I never desired to cause pain, but I deluded myself into thinking others were just as much to blame for my behavior as was I, so they can apologize to me as much as I can to them. It never entered my head, in any way, to lead and accept God’s truth, we must be willing to walk the path alone, but we must be willing to lead the way as well.
So, there I am in life, causing rip tides of destructive selfish tendencies bringing people down where I can, not bothering to take full responsibility for my actions, and I’m hit with a piece of advice which changed my life and I still think about daily. As I was attending a therapy session, because talking is the only way I can understand some things, I was told, “Sometimes, you have to have the courage to be the first to say sorry, even if it means your destruction”. To this day, I don’t think truer words were spoken to me about what I needed to be as a man, a husband, a father, and a friend. Look at Jesus, death on a cross, for our sins, humiliation, and pain, yet he still did it for us. He, obviously is the perfect example, but as I heard the therapist speak these words, my life began to change. Of course, I tried to deny her words, but over time, I began to accept what she meant and I applied my understanding to how I needed to embrace this truth seeking a better life for myself and more importantly, my family.
I wasn’t sure how to begin, but all I knew at one point was I needed something more in my life. I was incredulous with my life, how can I sometimes make good choices and sometimes make bad choices, there was no consistency. I was happy at some times, and very down at others, I wasn’t sure what the hell was going on. All I knew was it had to stop, all I wanted was no drama in life, to make good principled decisions, and to find purpose to what I was doing.
Just like any good race, I needed to figure out why I was racing, was it for me or something else. Well, it was for both, but most importantly, it was in search of God’s presence in my life. God’s presence provided me with understanding, a warmth of unspeakable dimensions, and above all joy. I won’t try and pull the wool over anyone’s eyes and say I don’t get mad, or I walk around with a smile plastered across my face every day all day. Instead, I seem to calm down more often, quicker, less likely to get excitable about those things which I can’t control, and above all else, recognize God’s here with me and this was always the purpose. God is my goal, my purpose for running this race, and my desire to see it through, no matter the cost. But I was running into a wall, now I knew what I needed, I wasn’t sure how to get it. Of course everyone knows about being “good”, but what does that exactly mean? The world is full of good people, “hell is a road paved with good intentions”, but being a good person isn’t merely enough. Good, is relative to the subjective conversation we have with other people. Being principled and holy is a completely different story. When we don’t have a measure of what good actually is, then we don’t have a concept of how to accomplish this goodness. As it were, I was stumped by how to not only do the right thing, but to show others I was doing the right thing. Well, the first was answered by an understanding of what a principle is. An objective moral which becomes a standard, set to lay a foundational rule, not to be broken and which isn’t negotiable by any standard. A principle is not just a rule, but a belief which forms our way, a conduit of sorts, towards God’s light for each one of us. It creates in us an ability to focus our desires for the will of others, and to find joy in what we do as we become consistently good in our decisions and our very being. What we all find in being principled is, where we follow one, we must follow them all. This isn’t to say we always do, or I always have, but what it means, is we are human and we strive to seek this light, God’s gift to all of us is the yearning for his love and affection through means simple to understand and because of our will hard to always do. Of course, as I realized through my principles I would attain a truthful life and devotion to God, I also needed to remove any drama. Drama, which causes emotion to take over and decisions to be ruled by feelings only and little intellectual skill, instead of the combination of intellect and compassion as a measure of decision making which having the two combined creates principled lives in all of us.
The first thing I did, was begin as it were, my humble march in shame. I would apologize to all members of my family, at one point or another. This meant one-on-one meetings whenever and wherever possible to express regret at my selfish actions, because much like water with ripples, so too are our actions in the lives of other people, especially those who are closest to us. After making my concessions and apologies to my family, extended family, and those closest to my family, I began with friends and acquaintances. However, at this point, I wasn’t just apologizing for recent actions which caused disquiet among family, instead, it was a lamentation of sorts for past woes which I may have caused and which I needed them to know I regretted, not simply because it was wrong but because they may have hurt because of it. Now, I know what you might be thinking, this seems like a lot of drama, especially for a person who was trying to remove drama, but I would say it was the last push of a life devoted to no more drama, except the envelopment of the drama which unfolded because of the “Passion” Jesus endured.
What I attained from all of this has helped to set my path in life. I hope I can pass along a little of what I’ve learned and it will help those who have experienced similar circumstances, or will help illuminate a path some have been seeking and as yet have been unable to find. The first lesson I grasped from all of my struggles was I am entitled to nothing, I deserve nothing. In acknowledgement of God’s Graces, I’m overjoyed to receive a drop of rain on a hot day, a warm coat when a frigid wind blows against me, the hugs of my children, a kiss from my wife, a call from my mother and father, or a chance to open my eyes one more day and seek the love of God once more. Recognition of God’s Grace is the first step to a life of joy, a life where blaming people for our troubles is no longer needed, but most importantly a belief in an existence past our earthly lives, a goal to live for. God’s love truly isn’t a race in the traditional sense, as it is nothing to win. Instead, God’s love, is like a race in the sense we all must start and we all must end, how we decide to run the race is the very definition of character we choose.
Ok, so why must we always be willing to say “I’m sorry” first, because God’s love exists and in our imperfect nature, we undoubtedly could have done more to embrace the compassion and charity needed for every situation. Often times, when I speak to my children, they are in a situation(s) where they are at the receiving end of another person’s vitriol, and in response they release their own anger and words they hope will cut as deeply as the wounds they believe they have. Though, to be honest, no wound is too great which can’t be healed by humility and the light of God, so why easily offend? The other night my oldest daughter was at the brunt end of an accusation, which was neither true no kind in the way in which it was delivered. She was immediately upset and intended to strike at those who were delivering the verbal body blows, and this was how she intended on settling the issue. Though in this case, the people who verbally accused my daughter, had been under some stress and were facing tough questions in an uncertain future, and when faced with an accusation they applied swift and incorrect judgement to affect an outcome. Much like what my daughter was willing to do and make the same hurtful error. However, my wife and I talked to her and she thought better of making decision by emotion only. To this day, I’m not sure how it ended, but since I haven’t heard anything else, I would guess she adhered to a “silence is golden” behavior and left the insults and accusations alone.
My daughter’s experience though does bring about one good point, was she at blame enough where she could have apologized for something, possibly, but only she can truly know this. At the end of the day, this is what repentance and making one’s self humble is all about, reflecting on those instances of our own lives where we could have made a more loving outcome occur if not for our need to have a circumstance the way we want rather than what is best. When my daughter became upset, she could have called and handled the situation emotionally, and I can’t say this would have been completely wrong, but not best you see. Best is stopping and thinking about everything occurring, and then putting ourselves in the place of another, so we may see a situation as they see it, so we can understand as they understand, because if we’re willing to see the world through the eyes of another we might just be willing to be less hostile and more compassionate. Jesus said “But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on [your] right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles. Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow” (Matt 5: 39-42).
Jesus speaks these words after giving the Beatitudes and right actions, and what He is saying above all other things is, our absolute need to understand, to elevate oneself to a position where even if evil is applied to us, even if we’re innocent, to stand and receive what we receive but understand there may be a point of misunderstanding on the part of the one who seeks your pain.
When we face situations which are seemingly impossible to understand, situations where we are blamed, wrongfully or rightly, we have the absolute power to step forward and fix what is broken. When we’re always waiting on the other person to apologize, we will never be satisfied with the result, because our anticipation of personal expectations unrevealed to another are always most certain to fail. However, if we set the tone with an expectation of redemption and adherence to humility through love and compassion, more often than not, we’re not disappointed. Although, people will continue to disappoint, and cause us consternation through their selfish efforts, it’s up to us to be leaders and make things right, even if we stand to lose.
At the end of the day, our free will gives us power to choose above all else. Our choices are located in two arenas, good and bad. Those arenas are easily labeled by the objective morals/principals we adopt in our lives. Like a science-fiction movie, where a special gift enables the hero to draw from and locate the source of power they seek, so too is the power of principle. When we follow our principles, we find a new world is opened up, a clean world, a world where offense is abhorred and compassion is embraced. So, if you question life like I did at one point, know this, your principles are a great starting point and will get you on the path where the search for the light of Christ can be found. The acceptance of those principles starts with your ability to stand before those you’ve offended and apologize. They may never accept your apology, but at a minimum, you’ve put others before yourself and this is a great point to begin your journey. I pray God blesses you and your family!!!
God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!