I’m sorry. These two words hold a lot of power. They have the power to heal, and they have the power to destroy.
I’ve learned the importance of a quick apology. Apologizing has the power to put a screeching halt to that voice that starts small and grows louder. The one that begins to convince us that we no longer have any part in creating the conflict at hand. The longer we wait, the more awkwardness it creates around apologizing. Eventually we've convinced ourselves that we're offended by the other person so we don't have to apologize. Apologies for doing something that hurts somebody, whether it was intentional or otherwise, is healing.
There's another type of apology that destroys. This one isn’t discussed very often.
Not so long ago, whenever I would cross into somebody's path and we had that awkward dance to guess which direction the other would walk, inevitably the other person would say, "excuse me," while I said, "I'm sorry."
I felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit to examine my words. As I did, I realized that I wasn't apologizing for nearly bumping into people, I was apologizing for taking up space.
When we don't have a strong sense of identity, we begin to believe the lie that humility means other people are more important than we are, and by extension, that we don't have the right to be an inconvenience.
True humility is not thinking less of ourselves but of ourselves less. -Rick Warren
(It's not written by C.S. Lewis like most believe, but it is a great quote nonetheless.)
When we have low self-worth, we actually take more time thinking about ourselves than others because we're constantly listening to that inner critic tell us why we aren't good enough. God gave us the mission to love others. It is really hard to do that when we're focused on ourselves. God calls us to have humility, yes- but to also be bold.
Acts 19:8 (NIV) Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God.
In order to boldly walk in the purpose that God has for us, we have to have a strong sense of identity. Our true identity is a son or daughter of God, just like Jesus. He came to show us who we were made to be. Things happen in life that convinces us to listen to the lies of the enemy that distort that truth. Until we understand and live in our true identity, we won't be able to be both bold and humble.
1 Peter 2:9 (NLT) But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
A couple of days ago, I was in a restaurant when I couldn't help but overhear the family next to me. The parents seemed to have their hands full with four children.
One little boy kept asking the father for something and the father responded, "you're acting like a child right now."
Then, a little girl that was close to the same age started speaking loudly and the mother's response was, "sweet girls get rewarded."
I imagine that these were default responses that the parents created a habit of saying, and they point to how our culture raises boys and girls differently. The boy was basically told to be a man, in other words- be more than he was capable of being since he wasn't a man. The girl was in essence told to stifle her boldness.
I appreciated that they were doing their best to maintain a peaceful atmosphere in the restaurant, and there is the right time and place to display boldness, but it's under those conditions when parents are tired and let's be honest, irritated, that those default phrases surface. I'm not trying to judge parenting skills. I'm actually taking a look at what it's like to be raised in our current American culture and I think these phrases accurately display how we raise our kids as a culture.
We must always compare our made-made religion and culture to God's heart and word.
We tend to confuse the "rules" of our culture and man-made-religions with God's heart and commands. It's important to search and know the difference because we have long practiced ways of treating people that are counter to Jesus's teachings. Harming people in the name of God is the only thing that drove Jesus to noticeable anger. We must understand the difference and stand against harmful man-made practices.
I don't think I was necessarily raised to live small but I was still influenced by a society that told me in other ways that I was too bold, that I needed to stop making waves, and slowly I conformed. As I realized my propensity to apologize for existing and began working with God to live in my true identity, I noticed other women apologizing for the same things I did.
Even if unintentionally, our handed-down-culture still teaches girls to become smaller which is not who God designed us to be. So as women, we can struggle with having a strong identity in Christ. It teaches boys that they aren't good enough, so men can struggle with having a strong identity in Christ as well.
You are the mirror image of God. Never apologize for that. You will make mistakes. We all do, and the sooner we apologize for those mistakes, the better it will be for everyone involved. We don’t want to miss out on giving God glory because we’re living small. We want to be the person God created us to be by boldly speaking and acting in love and according to His will.
Dr. Ellen Hendriksen says in her book, How to be Yourself, that our brain influences our behavior but it goes both ways. Our behavior also influences our brain. When we work with God daily to transform us and practice acting like the person God created us to be, we will be able to accept that we are that person.
Apologize for what you've done and never apologize for who you are.
How have you identified the difference between God's heart and cultural influence? I'd love to hear from you in the comments section!
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