Men especially, but women to a fair degree, are culturally condition to never apologize. We justify mistakes. We make excuses. We shift the blame. Sometimes we even apologize passive-aggressively in an attempt to gain the upper hand in the argument. Indeed, for some of us, our entire identity is bound up in ALWAYS having to be right.
But rarely do we ever just take the burden of the mistake on ourselves. Rarely have I ever met someone who’s identity is bound up in a humble willingness to be wrong and apologetic.
Apologizing is especially hard when arguing with a spouse or a friend. The disagreements in these situations are usually so intense and emotion filled that it is incredibly difficult to apologize.
I was reminded recently of Paul’s charge to the Corinthians (who were taking each other to court), “Why not just take the blame? Why not just say, ‘I was wrong’? Instead you drag your brothers and sisters to court, creating schisms in the church, and blaspheming the name of Christ among the gentiles!”*
Paul’s point is that unity and love, especially amongst Christians, are more important than being right. Catch that: THERE ARE SOME THINGS THAT ARE MORE IMPORTANT THAN BEING RIGHT.
So be willing to apologize. Be willing to acknowledge when you’ve hurt someone else. Say, ‘I’m sorry,’ when you know you’ve done wrong. And maybe even occasionally apologize when you didn’t do anything wrong** – sometimes being right can be wrong.
Besides, you might be surprised at how a word of apology can change the tone of a conversation that might otherwise just get out of hand.
*My paraphrase, of course. If you want to see it for yourself, just read I Cor. 6.
**Quite often we hurt people unintentionally. They are offended, but we didn’t really do anything to offend them on purpose. In such a situation, often the most godly approach is to just apologize. Your goal here is not to maintain your own dignity or pride, but to regain the other person as a brother or sister in Christ. Let me also say at this point, that this can be overblown, especially in abusive situations. I do not condone someone becoming a victim of abuse in order to fulfill Paul’s injunction. That is quite beside the point. I’m not advocating ignoring justice here, but just seeing that simply ‘being right’ isn’t all there is to justice.