[You won’t like this.]
I hardly ever meet people who can apologize without excuses, or who can handle rebuke with a level head, or who don’t immediately lash out and get defensive when they’re corrected. I only know this because I’m that guy, too.
We do everything possible to avoid the consequences of our actions, to hold on to some tiny frayed rope of self-righteousness, to desperately grab for some centimeter of posture in a tug-of-war. We run to “What-about-you?” as if that cancels out the hurt we’ve caused. Such a sloppy mirror-defense uses someone else’s “tone” or past grievance to wiggle out of being wrong, like some kind of insane free-styling Walter White to proclaim up is left and purple is sky. Every suggestion is shot down by a sniper’s rocket launcher in a walled-up tower of self-pity, without considering the other point of view, the other human being, even for a fraction of a second.
All that energy could be used to hold up the mirror to yourself, to own your part of the problem. But I never see that anymore. I only see the irresponsibility of regurgitating excuses, a rehearsal of Sisyphus in an isolated hell. I only see the comfort zone of yes-men, never stretched or challenged, choking in a bizarre backwards world of fawning and flattery to protect a precious egg-shell ego.
If you think I’m talking about your neighbor or your parents or your boss or that church down the street, I’m not. I’m talking about you. About me. That’s part of the problem. No one wants to think, “I’m part of the problem.” I’m talking directly to you.
I’m just jaded. In the last month alone, I’ve seen even the best kinds of people respond to criticism by throwing f-bombs, fake-crying their way out, and shifting blame to a billion other people, no matter how gentle I am, no matter how soft or loving or coddling. In fact, it appears that grace is hijacked as a permission slip, or a loophole to play dumb, when grace was meant to be a surgical, sculpting love that has to say everything: that must stop you from driving off the cliff at all costs.
Of course, you have a right to defend yourself. Yes, sometimes it’s really not your fault. No, not every rebuke is right, and it can be abused: but if it’s coming from someone who cares, or from someone you decided to hurt, then it’s worth exploring before you throw it out with the rest of your logic and empathy. To at least find where you could’ve handled it differently.
And half an apology is worse than no apology. “I’m sorry that I hurt you, but—” is a squirmy, selfish counterattack to retain the flag of your fortress. You don’t get to say, “I didn’t mean to.” That’s not the same as saying, “I’m wrong and I’m sorry,” with no buts, no scrambling for your self-justifying, pre-programmed semantics.
The sad thing is, the wrong that we each do was not done in a day. It came by a series of small rationalizations, the exact ones we use when people try to stretch our perspective, and the more we reinforce our pride, the less likely we are to grow and to truly know who we are. Reality will dim until we’re out of touch and alone.
I’m not an alarmist, but I’m convinced this is why our culture is often seen as going down the toilet. No one is willing to examine their own motives and see where they might improve. No one is going after mentors, after elders, after the truth. We’d rather drown in our blind spots than breathe in the light.
Total honesty with yourself is terrifying, and it will threaten your safe little shrink-wrapped kingdom. But it’s just as agonizing as it is liberating. It will set you free. It will make you see. It takes courage to get there: and no, not everyone will step out of the slumber of status quo into awakening. We live in a generation of pampered cowards who are allergic to what’s real.
I told you: you won’t like this. And if you’re mad by now, then it might already be too late for you. Unless, by such daring courage, you are mad at yourself.
So here’s a note to myself. I need this first before anyone else.
Apologize quickly. Make amends. Do better next time. Being wrong ain’t the end of the world. You can’t get it right every time. Don’t say, “Well-what-about-you?” until you first ask, “Well-what-about-me?”
And thank God for people who will speak up with a shaking voice, with tears in their eyes, with full passion for your wholeness.
They won’t say the truth perfectly, and never the way that you’d like to hear. But if you have a friend like that, consider yourself blessed. They’re going all the way on love. They respect you enough that they think you’ll hear them, and they’re risking comfort to say, “You’re better than this.”