I just walked through the door after a two and a half hour lunch with my mom and sister, and my heart was full. We were in such deep conversation we lost track of time. It was one of those visits where you’re forced to end it because you have to pick up your kids; not because you are eager to leave.
I was standing in the kitchen and saw my mom’s name pop up on my phone. It had been less than an hour since I saw her last. I wondered what she wanted. When I grabbed the phone and said, “Hello?”, my mom’s voice cracked as she said, “Shan? I need to apologize to you.” I was completely caught off guard. As far as I was concerned, she didn’t need to apologize for anything.
You have to understand something about my mom. She is the one who instilled in me and my siblings a love for God and His Word. It’s not too often my mom has to apologize for anything. I look up to her, respect her, and love her. There is no perfect family, and I’m not trying to paint a picture of perfection when it comes to my mom. We had plenty of mother-daughter conflict when I was growing up. But either way, this confession took me by surprise.
“O’kay?” I said with uncertainty in my voice. My mom began to explain, “For the past few weeks I’ve been assuming some things about you. After spending time with you today, I realize I was wrong. I’m sorry.” Instead of being angry at her, my heart melted with the declaration of her confession and apology.
My mom and I continued our conversation and cleared up any misunderstandings. By the time I got off the phone with her, I loved her even more.
Those words are powerful, yet they aren’t easy to say. They’re two simple words, yet they have a transforming impact on the giver and the receiver. They’re just words, but they’re neglected all too often.
This conversation with my mom taught me a valuable lesson. She really didn’t have to apologize because I didn’t have a clue she was upset with me. Well, she did, but she didn’t. Let me explain …
I never would have known my mom was sitting around stewing about me. After our lunch that day, she knew right away she was wrong. She could have let it all go right there and then, and never told me a thing about it. But she didn’t take forgiveness for granted. And if she would have let it go, she would have forsaken Biblical truths.
Don’t take forgiveness for granted.
There is a reason God doesn’t want us to take forgiveness for granted in our relationships. James 5:16a says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” Anyone else have a hard time confessing your wrongdoings to someone else? I find it much easier to confess them to God, and even that’s not always as forthcoming as it should be. But confessing to someone else that I was talking about them? What they don’t know won’t hurt them, right? Not according to James.
James says when we confess there is healing. I may not have known anything about my mom’s assumptions toward me, but she did, and in some small way it was chipping away at our relationship. The confession brought a healing back to our relationship and made it stronger than it was before that phone conversation.
God gives us an example on how to handle conflicts in our relationships. In Isaiah 1:18, He says, “Come now, and let us reason together.”Some translations say, “Let us settle the matter.”Friend, I will be the first one to admit that I hate conflict. Hate it!! I hate the knot in my chest and the frustration over not seeing eye to eye with those I love. I have a very bad way of handling conflict: I flee! I literally run home, close all my blinds, lock the doors and hope the matter settles itself. But that’s not what God says we should do.
If God is willing to reason with us and settle matters to make sure we stay in right relationship with Him, how much more should we follow His example to make sure we stay in right relationship with others? Do you know what a matter is? It’s a problem, trouble or difficulty. And although problems aren’t easy to talk about, they should be settled.
I believe the hardest part of having that conversation with my mom that day was on her end. It took a lot of love for her to call me and admit what she did. And that’s exactly how she made me feel: loved. Because out of all the conflicts I’ve had with others (let’s face it, if we’re alive we’re going to have disagreements, arguments and misunderstandings with people we love), she’s the only one who said those powerful words and settled the matter with me.
It says, “This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.” I used to think if someone had something against me it was their problem. But this verse says if we think someone is upset with us, we are to go make it right with them. Sometimes it’s not about us. Actually, a lot of the time it’s not about us. It’s about relationships, and God cares about our relationships.
My attitude has changed a bit toward conflict. I used to avoid it at all costs (let’s be real, sometimes I still do). I always thought nothing good would come of it. But, now I see it as an opportunity for stronger relationships and healing that mends hearts back together again. Forgiveness should not be taken lightly, nor should it be overlooked.
As we leave each other today, I want to encourage you to keep those words, “I’m sorry” as part of your vocabulary. Don’t throw them around meaninglessly, but speak them when you wrong someone. Accept them when someone has wronged you. It’s truly the ingredient that helps relationships stand the test of time.
I want to challenge you to look at conflict as an opportunity to make your relationships with others stronger. Have hard conversations that may include confessions of wrongdoings and conclude with the words, “I’m sorry.” Those are two little words that show others how much you really love them.
Coming in December 2019
Hey Friend! Keep an eye out for my podcast coming in December. To be the first to know and get downloads of the first several episodes, be sure to subscribe below!