Faith, Prayer, Repentance, Forgiveness: The Power of Apology

There’s that one song on the radio that says over and over, “It’s too late to apologize, it’s too late.” That song bugs me, because if you’re still alive, it’s not too late. I mean (Pretend I’m talking out loud to my radio in the car. It’s been known to happen.), you might be too proud to apologize, or too scared to apologize, or it might seem too hard to apologize, but I guess that doesn’t make for good lyrics. Too late? Lame excuse.

The Family Proclamation lists the ingredients of successful marriages and families. If I were to rewrite one sentence from the Proclamation in the form of a recipe, I think it would look something like this:


It seems simple enough, but it is hard work (which, coincidentally, happens to be one of the ingredients). And since it is challenging, we mess up. Often. That’s why I think that the two ingredients that will have to be added over and over to the recipe are repentance and forgiveness. Consider the following words of wisdom:

“To be guileless is to have a childlike innocence, to be slow to take offense and quick to forgive. These qualities are first learned in the home and family and can be practiced in all our relationships. To be guileless is to look for our own fault first. When accused, we should ask as the Savior’s Apostles did, “Lord, is it I?”. If we listen to the answer given by the Spirit, we can, if needed, make corrections, apologize, seek forgiveness, and do better.” —Elder Robert D. Hales

“To any[one] within the sound of my voice who has trouble controlling his tongue, may I suggest that you plead with the Lord for the strength to overcome your weakness, that you apologize to those you have offended, and that you marshal within yourselves the power to discipline your tongue.” —President Gordon B. Hinckley

“The sweet peace the gospel brings never comes at all when we justify our misconduct or blame others for our unhappiness. But there is a way out. … Face up, quit, get out, confess, apologize, admit the harm we have done…” —Elder F. Burton Howard

“On a visit to see my Uncle Ray last year, … Hanging on the kitchen wall was a framed expression which my aunt had embroidered. It carried a world of practical application: ‘Choose your love; love your choice.’ Very often this will take compromise, forgiveness, perhaps apology. We must ever be committed to the success of our marriage.” —President Thomas S. Monson

“Every marriage is subject to occasional stormy weather. But with patience, mutual respect, and a spirit of forbearance, we can weather these storms. Where mistakes have been made, there can be apology, repentance, and forgiveness. But there must be willingness to do so on the part of both parties.” —President Gordon B. Hinckley

“You have felt [your Heavenly Father’s approval] in your family when you asked the pardon of your spouse or forgave a child for some mistake or disobedience. These moments will come more often as you try to do the things you know Jesus would do. Because of His Atonement for you, your childlike obedience will bring a feeling of love of the Savior for you and your love for Him.” —President Henry B. Eyring

There’s a reason I chose to write about the importance of repentance and forgiveness in family relationships. The reason is me. I make mistakes all the time. Just yesterday, I lost my patience with both of my sons for performing below their potential at school. What I considered tough love was probably, in part, actually a little unkind. This morning, I lost my temper when my daughter refused to eat breakfast and responded to me with defiance. Here’s the thing: I am the parent, but I am still the learner, too. So when the Spirit pricks at my heart and says, “You could have handled that better,” then I need to swallow my pride and apologize. When I dropped off Natalie at school today, before I let her hop out of the van, I pulled her up onto my lap, looked into her pretty blue eyes, and said, “Does Mommy need to apologize?” She nodded her head. I told her I was sorry and that I had acted wrongly. I asked her forgiveness. I gave her a hug. And as I drove away, I promised Heavenly Father that I would try (again and again) to do better.

One of my favorite things about my husband is that he usually says sorry first–even when the fault is as much or more mine than his. It is an immediate diffuser of coldness and distance. When someone sincerely says “I’m sorry,” we can breathe easier as we work through our disagreements. And because we hope our Heavenly Father will forgive us all the way when we make dumb mistakes, we need to be willing to offer that same kind of forgiveness to others, especially those with whom we have covenant relationships.  I’ve always loved this powerful analogy by Elder Holland:

Let people repent. Let people grow. Believe that people can change and improve. Is that faith? Yes! Is that hope? Yes! Is it charity? Yes! Above all, it is charity, the pure love of Christ. If something is buried in the past, leave it buried. Don’t keep going back with your little sand pail and beach shovel to dig it up, wave it around, and then throw it at someone, saying, ‘Hey! Do you remember this?’ Splat!

Well, guess what? That is probably going to result in some ugly morsel being dug up out of your landfill with the reply, ‘Yeah, I remember it. Do you remember this?’ Splat.

And soon enough everyone comes out of that exchange dirty and muddy and unhappy and hurt, when what God, our Father in Heaven, pleads for is cleanliness and kindness and happiness and healing. Such dwelling on past lives, including past mistakes, is just not right! It is not the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

So when you find that your relationship with your spouse or your child is strained (as it will often be), put down your shovel and pail, put down your pride, and say “I am sorry.” When spoken with a humble heart, and then followed by an “increase of love” or any of the other ingredients, your marriage and family recipe is one step closer to successful. The song got it wrong: It’s never too late to apologize.

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Click here to read a complete version of The Family: A Proclamation to the World. The celebration will continue through Sept. 30.

Remember that during the world-wide-web Family Proclamation Celebration, you can read more posts every day at We Talk of Christ, at Chocolate on My Cranium, and at Middle-Aged Mormon Man.

Marriage Is Essential, by Michele Stitt

A few years ago, our LDS Bishop called me into his office where he was counseling a newly married young couple.  “Tell them what it means to be equally yoked,” he directed.  “Tell them why you and Jeff are happy in your marriage.”  At the time, I mumbled something about horses and wagons and pulling together.

…Let me see if I can be more clear now.  I’ll start by quoting the Proclamation:

“Marriage between man and woman is essential to God’s eternal plan.  …Fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners.”

Elder David A. Bednar once said:

“Righteous marriage is a commandment and an essential step in the process of creating a loving family relationship that can be perpetuated beyond the grave
1. [because] The natures of male and female spirits complete and perfect each other, and therefore men and women are intended to progress together toward exaltation and
2. By divine design, both a man and a woman are needed to bring children into mortality and to provide the best setting for the rearing and nurturing of children” (6/06 Ensign, 82-84).

It has been said that in a contented marriage, partners have 5 positive feelings or interactions for every 1 negative one.  Since Jeff and I have been hitched to the same wagon now for nearly 15 years, I thought I’d share 5 POSITIVE THINGS he does that reinforce our partnership.

He actively loves (which I’m sure often involves “praying with all the energy of his heart” for charity).  He makes sure we have a weekly date; he brings home newspapers from his travels for me to read and discuss with him; he always shares his chocolate.

He listens.  He understands that I cannot sleep if the kitchen is a mess, so no matter how late he got home from work or how tired he is, he works beside me until the last dish is loaded in the washer.  He understands unspoken cues like—pulling-the-blanket-over-my-head-on-Saturday-morning means “Please feed and dress the kids and make sure they’re ready to go to soccer/piano/scouts/etc. by the time I get up.”

President Gordon B. Hinckley taught

“I am satisfied that the application of a single practice would do more than all else to [strengthen marriages…It is that] every husband and every wife would constantly do whatever might be possible to ensure the comfort and happiness of his or her companion… Argument would never be heard. Accusations would never be leveled. Angry explosions would not occur. Rather, love and concern would replace abuse and meanness.”  (11/04 Ensign, 82).

Jeff gets this.

Jeff forgives and moves on.  When Jeff and I were first married, I backed his brand new car into a cement pole.  When I called Jeff to tell him the bad news, I expected the first big trial in our fledgling marriage.  But do you know what he said?  “Are you okay? Don’t worry about the car.  It’s a car.  But you—how are you?”

Do you know what is even more wonderful to me about this story?  In all the time since this accident, Jeff has never complained about our insurance rates going up.  He never stands behind and beside the car waving his arms (like missionaries do), to help me back up.  He forgave and forgot about it.

As I think about Adam and Eve, they inspire me as people who certainly had trials but who “got over it” and moved on as equal partners.  To quote Marie Hafen:

“Adam and Eve fell that they might have JOY.  But they didn’t skip merrily out of Eden singing and wishing everyone a nice day.  They walked in sorrow into a lonely world, where they earned their bread by the sweat of their brows and learned about joy in the midst of misery and pain.”

Just as we have no record of Adam constantly bringing up Eve’s transgression in their two hundredth year together, Jeff has never once mentioned the totaled back-end of his car.

Jeff remembers who I am.  He tells our children by word and action that I’m a beloved daughter of God.  He remembers I’m his best friend by calling me in the middle of the day just to see how I’m doing; he relishes telling every new dinner guest our “how-we-met” story; he is the first to give me credit as his partner for any success he experiences in his career.

So there—5 good things about Jeff.  I’ll have to get back to you on a negative one.  In the meantime, I’ll just keep gratefully pulling along right beside him.

Michele is a wife and mother of two who currently resides in Alpine, Utah. She and I became friends in Minnesota, and she has been a mentor and example to me for many years. Thank you, Michele, for sharing these great ideas and insights.

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Click here to read a complete version of The Family: A Proclamation to the World. The celebration will continue through Sept. 30.

Remember that during the world-wide-web Family Proclamation Celebration, you can read more posts every day at We Talk of Christ, at Chocolate on My Cranium, and at Middle-Aged Mormon Man.

Every time you leave a comment on any of the Proclamation posts or participate in any of the Blog Hops, you are entered in a drawing to win a giveaway prize.

← The giveaway this week is a gift certificate from Family Tree and Me redeemable for any of their Photo Family Proclamations, including the shipping cost. Readers of the Family Proclamation Celebration can receive a 25% discount off the price of the print if you use this code: Family Proclamation Celebration.25 The discount is good until September 30th. All those comment on posts will be eligible for the giveaway.

Family Tree and Me delights in creating customized keepsake family photo art and would love the opportunity to make a meaningful art piece for you to display in your home. You provide the pictures and we create the art!

We have four categories of art with a variety of options available within each one: Photo Family Trees, Photo Family Proclamations, Missionary Photo Art, and Photo Family Mission Statements.

So I say to myself: “Remember this…”

“… Kindness begins with me.”  (Children’s Songbook, 145b)

You know, once you decide to work on a goal, stuff happens and it becomes kind of hard. Take our family goal this year:  Try to Show Kindness in All That You Do.  Well, people do dumb things.  People say dumb things.  From where I stand, sometimes it looks like people live dumb things.  And, sadly, that makes it hard to be nice.  But like the song says, “I want to be kind to everyone, for that is right, you see.”  And so it is.  It’s right.  It’s hard, but it’s right.  So even though the first week of January made this feel particularly difficult, I’m going to keep trying.

I’m thankful for the Atonement, by the way.  I’m thankful that the Savior was so kind that he was willing to offer forgiveness even to people who intentionally hurt him.  And then he still offers forgiveness to those of us who get angry when people are intentionally mean to us or toward people or things we hold dear.  It’s hard to be kind and angry at the same time.  Believe me, I’ve tried.  I found out that kindness is much easier if I just give the angry back to Jesus and let him take care of it.  He always does if I let him.

 

Thanks so much to a sweet reader who stumbled upon my request for something to hang on my wall to remind me about my new goal.  In a quick whirlwind of talent and kindness, she created this printable (above) for me, and I love it.  You’re welcome to download your own copy here. Thanks, Jen!

Somewhere on Facebook, a friend also shared this video of the primary song that’s the source of the goal phrase.  It’s really quite lovely, and I felt the spirit confirming the simple, sweet message as I listened.  Hope it adds a dose of goodness to your day, too.

“At times I am tempted to make a wrong choice, but I try to listen as the still small voice whispers, Love one another as Jesus loves you. Try to show kindness in all that you do.  Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought.  For these are the things Jesus taught.

Have a great week, friends.

 

GCBC Week 8: “Guided by the Holy Spirit” by President Boyd K. Packer

Elder Packer’s talk was a talk about revelation, but what stood out the most to me about his message was the importance of letting our offenses go, of forgiving and moving on.  This week for General Conference Book Club, we’ll be studying his conference talk:

“Guided by the Holy Spirit” by President Boyd K. Packer

What about you? What stood out to you as you read?  What’s your take-away message from this talk?  Share your thoughts and conversation in the comment thread below.  If you’re new to GCBC, check out the club here.

GCBC Week 21: Developing Good Judgment and Not Judging Others

General Conference Book Club Week 21:
I know someone who was offended at church by a closed-minded comment made during Sunday School.  The comment was not directed at her, but it was still thoughtless, and it stung.  We probably all know (or have been) someone in a similar situation.  Since we are not perfect and all have need of a Savior, we often forget to be more like Him, not only in the things we say, but also in forgiving the things we hear.Elder Elder Gregory A. Schwitzer of the Seventy gave his talk, Developing Good Judgment and Not Judging Others, during the last session of the most recent General Conference.  He made some great points about judgment that made me realize several areas where I could improve.  For example:

“We may often find ourselves making quick judgments about people, which can change or redefine our relationships with them. Often incorrect judgments are made because of limited information or because we do not see beyond that which is immediately in front of us.”

“Good judgment is needed not only in understanding people but also in facing decisions that often lead us to or away from our Heavenly Father.”

What insights did you gain as you studied this talk?

Only TWO weeks left before another round of conference.  Is anyone as excited as I am?

Go here to find the media versions of the talk (audio, video, mp3, etc.).  If this is your first visit to the General Conference Book Club,  click here to learn more about it.

Hitting myself where it hurts

Maybe you react to anger very responsibly.  I on the other hand, tend to temporarily enforce a semi-silent treatment, or roll my eyes and make glaring mean-mom faces, or start lots of sentences with “Why can’t…?” in an accusatory

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voice. Oh, and I do lots of really grumpy sighs, too.  Yah, I know, really mature.

I read a book last week that made me look at relationships a lot differently.  The author made a really cool analogy that I’ve thought about several times since.  He pointed out how after dislocating a shoulder, the main character did not get angry at the shoulder or treat it roughly as a reaction to the pain it caused him, but rather nursed it and cared for it gently.  It was a part of him, and had to be treated in a way to make his whole being better again.  This story was then tied in to the scripture in the Bible (1 Corinthians 12) about the body of Christ:

12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.      •  •  •

27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

Anyway, since our goal is to be at one with Christ, and at one with each other, we should be much more forgiving and nurturing towards others even when they hurt us or cause us pain, like He is with us.

Naturally, the people I should be the most “at one” with are my husband and children.  This analogy opened my eyes to the fact that I sinfully tend to give them the cold shoulder or use my “I’m annoyed” tone of voice or give thoughtless sarcastic answers with them when they (probably unintentionally) bug me, hurt my feelings, or cause me inconvenience.  But I would never try to act gruffly like that to an injured part of my own body, even if it were hurting me; I would care for it and give it even more nurture than normal.  Well, I feel like I haven’t been able to explain my self well, but I hope it made some sense to someone.

The point is, in the last little while, I’m trying to work on reacting to my own “suffering” with a greater dose of kindness toward the cause of that suffering.  Just one more thing to work on in the quest to become a little more Christ-like.  (That grumpy sigh part will be tricky to overcome.  Wish me luck.)

(This entry was originally posted Sept. 3, 2008.  I’m rebuilding my lost archives.)