Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Love Means You Really Do Need To Say You're Sorry

If you're at least forty-five or fifty then you probably remember a sappy, but very popular movie from years ago called Love Story. It was probably one of the most viewed movies that year although I don't think it won any major awards.  Nonetheless, the most famous line of that film was no doubt, Love means you never have to say you're sorry.

Yep, nice movie line. Unfortunately it was untrue then and it's just as silly today. In fact, the more counseling I do, the more I see struggling couples digging in their heals to do anything but say they're sorry.

Why? Well for some their worth as a person is horribly fragile. They simply do not want to admit they're wrong. To admit a mistake about this one thing (as simple as it might be) is to risk the possibility that their spouse will think they are a total loser. Of course that would rarely be the case but the fear is too great.

Others have unfortunately been brought up that way. Mom and/or dad just said things - rude, crude or lewd - and everyone just looked the other way or went on with business as usual. Manners along with kind words of "thanks, please or excuse me" just weren't part of the family's vocabulary. It was the "sticks and stones may break my bones . . . " mentality but no one ever talked about it and the pain it caused.

And yet marriage experts such as John Gottman and others have shown how statements like I'm sorry show the other person that you really are willing to try to repair a mistake or situation and it encourages the spouse to believe that you will do it again. It's a function of learning to start over or re-try a situation so that it's handled more effectively and with compassion, not enmity. It's part of friendship development, something sadly missing in most troubled marriages.

Saying I'm sorry is not an admission that you're the whole problem. It's just taking ownership for your part in it. It doesn't diminish your personhood, it enhances it. Admitting you've made a mistake keeps you real, human and more accepting of other's errors including those of your spouse or children.

Showing humility in this way also teaches your kids healthier and more effective ways to handle disagreements and personal slip-ups, to be authentic and real.

And perhaps most importantly, you model in your home what real love is.  The love chapter (I Corinthians 13) in the New Testament speaks of love being patient, kind, gentle and not keeping an account of wrongs suffered. God's love in us flourishes most when grace is needed.

So say you're sorry, will you?  To your kids, your spouse, your friends, your associates.  It really won't hurt you. it certainly won't kill you and you will be no less as a person. In fact, it will slowly begin to change you . . . for the better.
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

1 comment:

  1. I have found over time the more quickly I am to recognize a mistake and seek to repair it the better I personally feel about myself and the relationship. Too often I approached my relationships as a zero sum game where the goal was to have, but more importantly to admit, to as few mistakes as possible. As men we clearly struggle in this area. It is as if we are walking around with a giant scoreboard around our necks that keeps score on our failures.

    Great post!