I was talking to my friend Mike, and he said, “As soon as I say something hurtful to someone I love, I know it. I know it the moment the words leave my mouth.” Mike is a Christian so he followed this with, “It is the Holy Spirit convicting me.”
Then he asked, “This happens to you, too, right?”
I must have given him a look like, “I don’t know what you are talking about.”
Then he said, “If you don’t admit it, then you’re lying.”
“Ok. It happens to me all the time.”
This started a discussion on what happens after we say something which hurts a loved one. Here’s what we came up with.
Step 1 – I said it.
I am not a mean-hearted person. I don’t say something to a loved one with the objective to shame them or hurt their feelings. But sometimes they just get to me. They do something, again, that is wrong or just plain annoying. So I attack with words said in a way which pretty much ends any possibility of further conversation.
Step 2 – I know I hurt them.
I may feel justified but I did hurt them. I can see it in the way they react. The change in their countenance is obvious. I see it in their face. We went from enjoying each other’s company to they can’t leave fast enough. I feel it, too. I hurt them.
Step 3 – I know I’m right.
I dig in my heels. I go into explanation mode. I want them to agree with me. I have to go on and on pushing for them to admit what I said was truthful. I want them to justify me and what I said. I want them to say I am right and they are wrong.
Step 4 – I still feel bad about it.
I don’t like hurting anyone, especially the people I love. So I feel bad about what I said. But now begins an internal dialogue of justifying my position. I say to myself, “I’m right. I know I’m right. I’m sure I’m right. In fact, I know I said what needed to be said because…”
Step 5 – God knows I’m right.
Since I still don’t feel right about it, but I know I’m right, I take it to God in prayer (or if you are not a Christian, to a trusted friend who will be completely honest with you). “You’re wrong,” he says.
Step 6 – I’m trapped.
I feel boxed in. I have nowhere to go. There is no escape. I’ve come to a crossroads. I have to admit it is my pride which has me working overtime on righting this wrong. Or if I am right and it was justified, I am faced with deciding if my righteousness is of higher value to me than the relationship.
Step 7 – I decide it is pride.
Now I am upset at myself. My inner conversation is, “Why do I keep saying things like this to my loved one? Why the accusatory tone? I seem to do this over and over again and get the same reaction. When will I ever learn? When will I grow up? I’m sick of this behavior. Why can’t I control my tongue?”
Step 8 – I ask God to forgive me.
Come on, God. You are a God of grace. You sent your son, Jesus Christ, to die for my sins. Past, present, and future. He forgives me. I’m back but not completely.
Step 9 – I swallow my pride.
I decide the only way to make this right, to get the relationship back on track, is to apologize for what I said. To ask the person to forgive me. I say something like, “I shouldn’t have said what I said or how I said it. I know I hurt you. I am sorry. Please forgive me.”
I need to do this without following the apology with the dreaded, destructive “But…” Anything after the “But…” starts this cycle all over again.