When and When NOT To Apologize – Plus WW Linkup!

Time to Confess

Creating a confessional culture in your marriage should be developed with both discernment and timing in mind. Like most changes you want to make in life or marriage, you must go slowly and strategically, unless you are prepared for the entire effort to backfire on you!

This is especially true if your spouse is not on-board with creating a “confessional culture”—which I’d say is probably the majority of marriages! No amount of persuading through words or pressure will bring your spouse around. In fact, the opposite will almost certainly occur!

Your biggest influence on your mate in that kind of scenario is to be committed to leading out!

I think it’s important to note that Christ was very sensitive to God’s timing in all He did. In fact, in Matthew 12:15ff, we see where He withdrew from a conflict because the timing was not right and the approach to the conflict would not have demonstrated humility.

When NOT to Confess and Apologize to Your Mate

  • When you’re still very upset and resistant to seeing your part in a conflict.
    Just don’t let this linger as your excuse! Be quick about pursuing God’s examination of your role in the conflict.
  • When you’re confused about what your negative contribution is.
  • When you’re doing it for the purpose of eliciting an apology from your spouse.
  • When you’re doing it for the purpose of pacifying your spouse’s anger.
  • When you’ve already sincerely apologized “recently” but your mate, for whatever reason, refuses to accept your apology.
    There’s no need to try and convince with apology upon apology. Your willingness to “live out your confession” is more than enough persuasion for your mate in this case.

Remember . . .

When You SHOULD Confess and Apologize to Your Mate

  • After praying and finding God’s clarity and conviction of your part of the conflict.
    Prayer should always be the first “go-to” posture you take when facing a conflict. Let the moment you feel that tension in your relationship be your cue to pray for insight and humbleness.
  • When you are sorry for how your spouse has perceived and felt a hurt.
    This means you should apologize even if you didn’t do something wrong, but your spouse perceived that it was wrong! This also means apologizing for when you did something unintentionally and your spouse truly was hurt by it. The motive behind the hurt does not matter as much as the impact your spouse felt.
  • When your relationship with your mate feels wounded and contemptuous because of long-standing issues and offenses.
    You may feel like you’ve apologized or admitted your part in the past, but sometimes you might need to revisit this—especially when it’s been a while since you specifically apologized for your part. This is about reminding your mate of your remorse over the hurt you’ve contributed, in case your mate has forgotten or felt that you’ve returned to this behavior in some way. Better to be safe than “sorry” when there is any doubt of your contrition.

I know what I’m sharing—no matter how clearly it is laid out—is difficult, risky and painful, especially in wounded marriages. But . . .

 

What would you add to my lists?

 

When and how have these considerations—”timing and discernment”—proved to be essential and helpful in extending an apology to your mate or others?

 

 

If you’re interested in accountability and support from MM, consider joining the C.A.M. Club or “Confession & Apology in Marriage” Club. Click here to go to the Facebook page for this group. Click here for details on MM!


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  • Fabulous, Beth! For some reason, the ‘when NOT to’ list really captured my attention … why that is, I’m not sure. The whole issue of discernment is fascinating, too. It’s just not a simple 1 – 2 – 3 to do list.

    I so appreciate you speaking wisdom into my life, friend. I’ll be sharing this post on my sidebar. Just super.

    • You always know how to encourage me, Linda! How do you do that? 😉 I guess, that’s because you are such a gifted encourager to begin with! Thanks for your continued kindness to me, my friend!

  • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    Great post, Beth. I guess the only thing I might add would be that an apology can be important when you’ve accidentally hit a hot-button issue, and the emotions that have been unlocked become almost atavistic, rooted in a past to which you’ve no access. Sexual problems with a mate who’s been abused as a child are almost emblematic of this category.

    In this case, it’s good to know how to backpedal quickly and gracefully – even when you’re not in the least wrong. You do have to learn and practice an intentional sensitivity…and to take your ego out of play.

    It’s not about you…but neither is an unexploded bomb from WW2 that might enliven your European nature walk…”Oh, I wonder what THIS wire’s attached to..?”

    • Yes, that’s a good point, Andrew. That’s a great time to apologize and be continually aware of those triggers of your mate. And yes, learning to “backpedal” as you stated, is an art and something we should practice continually throughout the marriage years. We need to handle our mate’s emotions with “kid-gloves” and very often we want to pound them like a piece of steak! When we take pains to guard and protect our spouse’s hearts we will win their hearts! Thanks for adding such a wise thought to our discussion, my friend. You’re in my thoughts and prayers!

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  • Confession is indeed hard on he flesh due to pride, but very liberating. What you have shared is very true. The lists are great and very directional. Thanks for sharing and hosting Beth.

    • Thanks for your kind words, Ugochi! I am nothing if not “direct!” ha! Sometimes a little “too direct!” Just ask my hubby! Thanks so much for adding to the discussion, my friend!

  • Mary

    Great lists and ideas. I am glad you had a “when not to and when to confess” list. It highlights the importance of timing and the factors that plays in confession. Bullet #4 under when not to confess, hit home. Anger is an area that makes me say “i’m sorry” or try to smooth things over because confrontation is not my friend. I would be the person trying to pacify the other person for the sake of peace whether it was the right time to confess or not.
    Hope your day is blessed and your internet decides to cooperate. 🙂 Hugs!

    • Yes, timing is so important in any kind of heated discussion–whether apologizing or not. And the fact that you’ve done number 4 in the past is no surprise to me. You seem very gentle, nurturing and like you’d want to shy away from making anyone mad! Am I right, Mary? Funny, how I feel as if I’m getting to know you and I’ve never officially met you. God does wonders with the Internet! Thanks for your encouragement, my friend!

  • Your list of when not to apologize brought a smile & a memory. I can remember when my children were younger & making one apologize to the other. The response to me was, “I will say I am sorry but inside I am saying I am not.” May we learn & remember to offer sincere apologies. I learned that day to tell my children to come and apologize only after they had thought about it for a while and were ready to apologize. Much wisdom in your words, Beth. Have a great Wednesday!

    • Yes, forcing our children as well as ourselves to apologize before we truly are sorry is a recipe for disaster and more hurt in that relationship, Joanne. Thanks for your kindness to me, my friend! It’s much appreciated!

  • Oh my goodness, Beth, this is a wonderfully spelled-out map for apologies. I hadn’t really thought much about when NOT to apologize. Great points, my friend!

    • Isn’t it funny how useful a blog or writing is to clarifying the truths and lessons we know so we can share them with others. I don’t, for a minute, take for granted how much this blog has strengthened my own understanding of communication and relationship issues, Becky. Thanks for stopping in to encourage me!

  • Lily Lau

    Hats off for your post, Beth 🙂 People always have a hard time when apologizing, but they always expect one! I need to share this to open some eyes!

    Lazy Penguins

    • Thanks for saying, Lily! Yes, apologies are hard and most of the time we don’t know exactly how to say one because it’s often not taught in our culture. I hope you’ll also note the post before this one that shares a link to Dr. Gary Chapman’s Apology Language profile. You can go to his site and find out what yours is as well as learn how to communicate one in a way that your spouse or others values.

  • Such wonderful suggestions. I can still use them after being married for so long. I don’t have this whole marriage thing down pat yet. Just when I think I do, I find I am still messing up!!

    • Oh yes, Judith! We should always be learning and sometimes “relearning” in marriage. The moment we think we’ve arrived is the moment we should realize we have FAR to go! Thanks for joining the conversation, my friend!

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