Why We Should Confess Our Unloving and Disrespectful Comments
If the roles were reversed, we'd expect another to confess to us. If another was mean to us, blamed us for their unkind reactions, made light of their unkindnesses since they meant no harm, and justified or denied their personal unresolved issues contributing to their hostilities and contempt toward us, we'd be up in arms. We'd be saying, "Wow, can't you at least humbly apologize for your part?"
We need to apply the same medicine to ourselves that we recommend to others.
When we have been intentionally mean-spirited, or we have falsely blamed others that our unkindness is their issue not ours, or we have been unintentionally insensitive and unaware of our unkindnesses but rude nonetheless, or have been hostile and contemptuous due to unresolved personal issues, we need to confess.
Confession itself is loving and respectful, putting a chink in our crusty unkindness.
The confession to another that we spoke unkindly to them is the beginning of speaking kindly to them. The confession itself can make all things right. Such a kind confession can offset the earlier unkindness. The extent to which our unkindness made the other feel bad, our kind confession can make them feel good.
Of course, screaming unkindly, "I am sorry for my unkindness, okay?" is a contradiction. The confession must be sincere and spoken in loving kindness.
Confession of our failure to love and respect triggers the beginning of a change.
Confession starts an important four-step process.
One, we confess that the way we spoke was wrong. "I was unkind. I was wrong." Obviously, this helps the other person when we acknowledge the hurt we brought to them. Confession is good for the soul—theirs and ours.
Two, we confess, "It was my fault." None of us can stand the person who apologizes but adds a ton of excuses. "I was unloving and disrespectful but it's all your fault." They are not a puppet on a string mouthing out unkind remarks because we coerced them to speak this way. We must take the blame for what we did wrong.
By the way, we need not apologize for what they did wrong, but neither do we bring up what they did wrong. During confession we leave that to them, otherwise they will think we confess to get them to confess. So, for instance, if the exchange turned heated and both were at fault 50/50, we own up to our 50 percent without saying a word about them owning up to their 50 percent. That's their responsibility. My response is my responsibility and their response is their responsibility.
Three, we seek forgiveness. We ask, "Will you forgive me?" It isn't enough to tell a person we are sorry. They could retort, "Who cares that you are sorry, what about my feelings?" Asking for forgiveness, not demanding it, lets them know we care about what they feel. They are in the driver's seat on forgiveness. We are hoping they will forgive and allow for a new beginning since they are the one who matters here. The offense came to them.
Four, we state, "Here's what I will do differently to communicate more lovingly and respectfully." The Bible teaches that there must be fruit in keeping with repentance. That's reasonable. We would expect someone who confesses to us to change course. If they confess to harsh speech but do nothing to change, the confession is pointless.
Must we become perfect, never needing to confess again? Many of us wish to confess in order to be forgiven. We yearn inwardly to be clean. The wrongdoing truly bothers us. In the back of our minds we know confession is good for the soul. But we also feel confession is pointless since there can be no real forgiveness apart from repentance. We feel it only right that we make an effort to stop that sin which we committed that demands the confession in the first place. We hear in our brain, “You need to resolve not to sin again.” Somehow that translates to us, “Be perfect from here on out.” Of course, we know we cannot be perfect so we give up on ourselves.
Given perfection is the demand, who can go from imperfect to perfect? No one. Owning up to the past, seeking forgiveness, and resolving to communicate kindly does not mean we must walk on water as proof of our change. Yes, we must change, striving to speak perfectly today, but knowing we cannot become perfect on this side of paradise. We aim for perfection but always recognize we will fall short, not as justification for our unloving and disrespectful speech but to prevent us from feeling defeated and giving up altogether. We must live in the tension of two steps forward and one step back without taking lightly our one step back, or giving up because of the one step back.
We must live in the paradox of two Scriptures.
Matthew 5:48 "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Philippians 3:12 "Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus."
Confession makes things right between God and us.
We who believe in God have heard the prayer of the psalmist, "Let the words of my mouth . . . be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer" (Psalm 19:14). We know that our unkind, unloving, and disrespectful words toward others affects God's heart. God loves us no matter what we speak, but that doesn't mean He approves or accepts our harsh and disrespectful words spoken to others. We know that when we sin against another, we sin against God. When we confess to another, we need to also say, "Heavenly Father, forgive the words of my mouth."
Questions to Consider
- Why do we so often demand apology from others but refuse to give it ourselves when the tables are turned?
- How have you seen a kind confession, whether from you or to you, help offset the previous unkindness?
- Why is a confession or apology not truly complete without the asking of forgiveness?
- In what ways do our unkind, unloving, and disrespectful words affect God’s heart? Is this something you often think about in a moment of unkindness toward another?