One of the hardest things to do is to own up.
You know what I’m talking about – when we slip up, make a mistake, a boo-boo, say or do something, either intentional or unintentional, that results in unwanted consequences, serious or otherwise.
And the only thing harder than owning up is to just own up to our own part and say nothing else about anybody else’s part in the matter – to simply look the offended party in the eye and say “I’m sorry, I was wrong, please forgive me” and then stop right there.
No excuses. No defences. No justifications. And no “But I also feel that you were…” or “And I also think that you could’ve…”. Not to them, and not about them behind their backs to anybody else, anywhere.
Hard? It’s practically impossible. Believe me, I know. I’ve had a lot of opportunities to practise.
It could happen in the office. Work crises due to bad decisions, poor direction, and oversights in execution. To own up to our own mistakes before the bosses and do what needs to be done to remedy the situation is what we call “being professional”. But the moment we get a chance, we vent our injustices to our friends over lunch and discuss what everybody else could’ve done better.
It could happen with family. A misunderstanding here, a spat there. Issues that nobody wants to own and swept under the carpet could lead to years of strained relationship and estrangement, not to mention gossip and awkward family gatherings. We end up talking to every other family member about the matter except the one involved.
And it certainly happens in marriage. Oh, and how. Two very different people opting to live the rest of their life together is the perfect recipe for day-to-day conflicts.
In any conflict, there is more than one wrong party and one wronged party. But often our sense of pride keeps us focused stubbornly on the other’s faults and blinds us to our own part in the matter. And even if we were to admit our part, our sense of justice demands that the other party does too.
Well, you don’t know what he/she did – you’re right, I don’t. It’s probably bad, and it must have hurt a lot. Certainly, talking through your feelings after a distressing event can be cathartic. But storing up the hurts and replaying them over and over either in your mind or as you complain to others only causes the wound to fester and your heart to suffer even more. And in time, the bitterness and resentment within can damage our health, our relationships with others, and the way we live life.
After a particularly intense altercation with my husband TJ, a very wise friend told me, “We can never control how the other person reacts, and we are all only responsible for our own actions. The best thing we can do is to own our part in the matter and apologise for it. And once the apology’s done, don’t bring it up again. Let God take care of the rest and let Him do what only He can do.”
I took her advice, and it wasn’t easy, but it brought great rewards. Instead of hours of pointless verbal tug-of-war, there was an immediate calming and reconciliation. I don’t know how, but we ended up not just dealing with present pains, but forgiving each other for past hurts that had lingered with us unknowingly over the years too. Years of baggage seemed to fall away, just like that.
Where ordinarily there might have been days of moodiness that followed the event, we ended up enjoying the days that followed with fun and laughter, and a lightness and freedom from care that I can’t quite explain.
How does owning our part help? For one, it frees us from guilt. Most times we know deep down inside that we had a part to play in how the situation panned out. We do. When we own our part and seek forgiveness from the other person for it, it takes our sense of guilt out of the equation. And we won’t end up punishing ourselves and the other person for it.
But it’s so hard. And it is. In my opinion, it’s pretty much impossible to do it willingly, sincerely, and without expectations of reciprocation in and of ourselves. Only when we know that we have already been forgiven of ALL our faults can we find that peace, strength and courage to be open to own up to it without feeling any shame.
And that’s the good news that Jesus brings. We have been forgiven. The more we realise this, the more we are able to not just own up to our faults, but amazingly also forgive the other person and let go of the hurt, whether they admit their part or not.
When we know the abundance of the grace and love God has for us, we will restfully place all troubling situations into His loving and mighty hands, knowing that He will surely work something beautiful out of it in time. And that in the meantime we don’t have to sit stewing waiting for the other person to make amends, because God will bless us anyway. And when they do admit it and apologise, it won’t matter that much anymore.
I can’t say that I’ve arrived. Most definitely not. But I’m starting to see that a big step to healing my heart of hurts is to simply own my part and leave the rest to Jesus, who sees further, knows better, and loves me more than I do myself.
And I thank my Lord and Saviour that I can openly forgive and let go of hurts because I have first been richly and freely forgiven of all my wrongs.
Because when we encounter Jesus, we encounter grace.