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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Anatomy of an Apology: Mr. Deepwaters and Ms. Pushy Lass (Guest Post by Wendy Stringer)

Kiernan and Wendy Stringer lead the discipleship ministry at our church, Grace Toronto. They're humble, authentic, and have loved Jesus through joy and loss. They are just the kind of people you want leading you - and the kind of people you want as friends. Wendy is my friend - and confidant. When we traveled together last winter for a writing retreat, I told her my entire life's repertoire of stories. Every. single. one. And she still likes me, which I take to mean that she, like Jesus, is full of forgiving grace. Wendy is a writer and speaker. (Shhh, but it's been months that I've been asking her to blog.) She's passionate about the gospel, and she's writing here this week about apologies. Because you're all super fantastic readers, consider leaving a comment: what spoke to you? rang true? nudged you towards God or simply closer to yourself? I know that would encourage Wendy. (Heck, if you want to also mention that she should be blogging, that would be completely up to you of course.)

Thanks in advance, friends. And if you'd like to contact Wendy, email me, and I'll make the connection.

* * * * *

And so continues the excruciating journey of learning to talk the truth about the things I'm so ashamed of. Just a quick recap of yesterday's lessons learned in the most painful ways possible:

 Lesson one: A simple "sorry" will never be good enough. 

Lesson two: Grieve that I cannot fix my sin with my own words and deeds. 

Lesson three: Confess the wrong I've done. Get explicit.

And onto the fourth lesson: confess my motivation behind the sin, specifically. Ok, this does take a little digging and it is so undoing I'd often rather skip it, but my experience has been that my guy is more than willing to help me out here; if I can't think of what to say he's up for giving it a shot. You may want to pre-empt this too.

However, honestly, as unpleasant as it is, thinking about and talking out the why behind my sin has proven very helpful. To both of us.

So, back to our day of fighting and the self absorbed habit that Kiernan was calling me on. Here it is: when we argue I cut him off. He'll be mid thought, mid sentence, mid point and I've already decoded it, I've encoded, and I'm ready to tell him how he should think about things. I'm ready, he's taking too long to make his point, what I have to say is too important, so I interrupt.

And then he, "Mr. Deepwaters", wants to know why.

I always assumed that I did this because I'm a pushy lass and I like winning an argument. This is true. However when he  told me to "think about it" I did and I realized that there was something deep in my impulse to speak over him: the desperate, almost panicked need to be heard.

For many reasons (another time perhaps) I fear not having a voice that others would listen to. I am afraid of being missed and missing out. I am afraid of being unsafe and so I am my own biggest advocate for the things I need to feel like everything's ok.

Getting specific about the deeper motivations behind my sin made it possible for me to know myself, for Kiernan to know me and for us to get to the heart behind my sin of self absorption, rudeness and the need to win a fight.

Fifth lesson: acknowledge what my sin communicated to loved guy and how it hurt him.

My sin hurts the people I love. Being truthful about my sin includes being clear on how I wounded the other. I tell people all kinds of things when I sin against them, even if I'm not talking, which is, admittedly, rare.

For example, if I were to walk away from my guy in mid sentence and then proceed to ignore him for a period of time (no, of course I've never done that), I am telling him that his thoughts are garbage and he's not worth listening to. My guy is an influencer and wants to be heard almost as badly as I do so this "silencing" cuts him to the quick. It confirms for him what his fears often try and tell him: you have nothing to say that anyone should ever listen to.

When I tell him I know that my sin has communicated something very specific to him, something that has hurt him deeply and I am sorry, I am choosing to recognize his hurt rather than obsessing about how I can convince him to like me again. When I spend time thinking and talking about his hurt in all of this I tell him that I know this is not all about me.

It's about him too.

Sixth lesson, ask my loved guy to express his hurt and point of view (if he's ready). After I try and communicate to my loved guy how I have hurt him and how much I hate it I should really let him get a word in edgewise. Being the quiet guy that he is I shouldn't push him to speak and make nice before he's ready.

Once in a hardly ever while I'm brave enough to ask "Is there anything that I've missed or anything you want to say to me?" Sometimes he says no and forgives me right there. Other times he needs to add a thing or two and that's hard to swallow; I mentally sew my mouth shut while he does this.

Defensiveness and repentance are not bedfellows.

Tomorrow, we'll wrap up with how Jesus figures into this whole business of apologies.