Lord, I want a man who will sing with me. I am excited at the prospect of leading worship with my future husband. And please, Lord, let him be taller than me. Oh, and sweet! I desperately want a man who is sweet and kind and will treat me like a princess. And, of course, I need a man who is hard-working, a great dad, and willing to provide for his large family – someone who sees the value in me being a stay-at-home mom. Please give me someone who will love You, love my family, and if he happens to have brown hair and brown eyes to match mine, I will not complain!
Before Eric and I met, I had an idea of the type of man I wanted to marry – perfect with every ideal characteristic I could imagine. Sometimes, I miss the early days because the hope in my heart was so powerful and I could still afford to be idealistic. Though the waiting, at times, seemed unbearable, it was exciting to contemplate who God had in store for me.
Fast-forwarding a decade (or two), I look at my former list of wants and I smile. Though I still desire those attributes (and though I love Eric’s blue eyes and would not trade them for brown), my list has changed… a bit. In some ways, it is much simpler. If I were to revise this list now, I would add a few items:
Lord, please send me someone with whom I can laugh heartily and someone who can handle it when I sob for no apparent reason. Please give me a spouse who will show me grace, even when I do not deserve it (and who will gently expect grace from me). Please provide a mate who is willing to confront me when I need to repent. And, Lord, most of all… please send me a husband who is willing and able to say, “I am sorry.”
“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” – Jenny, Love Story
Though this quote is the result of an iconic movie, it may go down in history as one of the worst pieces of relationship advice ever. Maybe it was not meant to be taken so seriously, but there are people out there who believe apologies are unnecessary if you truly love someone. If I were to doctor the quote a bit, I would remove the words never and having, and replace them with choosing: “Love means choosing to say you’re sorry.”
God’s Word has something to say about love as well:
“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7, ESV)
“However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” (Ephesians 5:33, ESV)
At times in my marriage, respecting Eric required me to humble myself and apologize for treating him unjustly and disrespectfully. The Bible may not say, “Goest thou, woman, to your husband and repent before him for your foolish words!” But, it does tell me to respect him. What keeps us from apologizing to others in the first place? It does not cause physical pain. It is free (usually). Most of us can speak the words with little effort. So, what is the problem?
Pride is the problem. Ever since the fall of man in Genesis, we have been looking for someone else to blame. “The man said, ‘The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.’ Then the LORD God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’” (Genesis 3:12-13, ESV)
To say, “I am sorry” requires humility. When given genuinely, an apology means we have come face to face with our sin and have acknowledged our failure. Looking at our makeup-free faces and beholding the truth is not fun, especially when we believe someone else has wronged us. As difficult as it is to own up to our transgressions with someone who has not hurt us, it is so much harder to let down our pride and apologize to someone who has wounded us.
Also, the longer a couple is together, the more time they have to collect baggage. The more baggage a couple has, the more difficult it becomes to apologize. Why? Because the sins you have committed against your significant other pale in comparison (in your mind) to the sins he or she has committed against you.
How can she expect me to treat her with kindness when she is relentlessly emotional?!
Okay, so maybe I can get emotional sometimes, but how does he expect me to stay calm when he is so unkind to me?!
As difficult as it is to lower the walls around our dignity and offer apologies, it is essential for healthy relationships – and both parties need to be willing and able to seek out and offer forgiveness. Pride kills. It hinders our relationship with God. It can sever human relationships. It can convince us to throw away what is truly important to save face.
God Word is full of messages about the consequences of pridefulness:
- “For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar.” (Psalms 138:6, ESV)
- “Toward the scorners he is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor.” (Proverbs 3:34, ESV)
- “One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.” (Proverbs 29:23, ESV)
- “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:12, ESV)
- “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6, ESV)
God is not playing games. He requires us to lay down our pride. Additionally, He requires us to forgive.
“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15, ESV)
But, He Has All These Other Wonderful Attributes!
It is tempting to make light of our sweethearts’ unwillingness to apologize, but it is very dangerous to bury such a concern. Unwillingness to apologize is a symptom of a deeper spiritual problem. Pride is one of the roots of evil. Pride tempts us to lie, steal, and commit any number of sins. If your partner rarely apologizes to you (when apologies are necessary) or, worse yet, regularly denies wrongdoing, this man or woman is not marriage material.
“For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world.” (I John 2:16, ESV, emphasis mine)
We all sin. We all struggle with pride. We have reasons to apologize to each other regularly. No one – not even the sweetest among us – are immune from this disease of the human condition. If you are dating someone who does not apologize, who must be coerced into apologizing, or who will only apologize after you spend an hour explaining why you are hurt, red flags are flying. Please do not ignore them. Confront them before entering a painful marriage. Remember, your sweetheart is on his or her best behavior now. Your future spouse will never be perfect, but it is not ridiculous, naive, or perfectionistic to seek a spouse who is willing and able to apologize when he or she has wronged you (or anyone else).
“Let the wife make the husband glad to come home, and let him make her sorry to see him leave.” – Martin Luther
In households where husbands and wives practice repentance and forgiveness, the husband is glad to come home, and the wife is sorry to see him leave. Sadly, the opposite is true in homes filled with bitterness, broken hearts, and murderous silence.
Love means choosing to say you’re sorry.
What about your relationship? Is your boyfriend willing to admit when he is wrong? Is your girlfriend able to genuinely repent? Are there red flags waving? If you have not noticed, start now. In an unhappy marriage, till death can seem like an eternity. After a few decades together, humility in a spouse will mean more to you than looks, popularity, and riches ever did! ~smile~
Does your significant other struggle or refuse to say, “I am sorry?” Do you?