Marriage Spiritual Growth

When You Have to Be the First to Say “I’m Sorry”

You know how it goes.  You love your husband.  Still, you disagree.  You squabble over how to discipline the children, what defines “clean” in the house and how much money can be spent each month.  To top it off, those qualities you found endearing when you were dating now occasionally drive you a tad nuts.  

Even when your sails are set in the same direction, disagreements can flare up over seemingly insignificant issues.  At those times, saying “I’m sorry” is the key to restoration.  That phrase doesn’t come easy when your heart hurts and you feel slighted. 


Like you, I love my husband up to the moon.  He is funnier than most people know and makes me laugh from the belly most days.  Jon serves quietly without needing attention or applause.  He has compassion for the hurting and a tender way of approaching difficult situations.   

Through all our years of dating and marriage, one thing is certain.  Mixed in with some amazing memories and more sweet times than we can count, we have had our fair share of disagreements, hurts and disappointments.  


I remember one Sunday after a full day at church and lunch out with friends, followed by a ministry meeting in the late afternoon, our family was unwinding in front of the TV.  Something came on I didn’t want our littlest to see.  We were fumbling to get the controls to forward past the unsavory scene.  Tension mounted between our oldest son, my husband and me.  The volume went up (not on the TV, in the room!).   Some comments were made that were hurtful and I retreated to our bedroom to cool off.

In the heat of the moment I wanted to blast my husband with some really cunning comebacks.  I restrained myself.  I’m not a saint, so don’t rush out to nominate me to the Pope.  Instead of lashing out, an unwelcome and surprising thought flashed across my brain:  “What does it mean to follow Jesus in the day-to-day life of our family?”

sunset on beach

I had bypassed an opportunity to slice down the ones I love with my quick wit turned fierce.  I did unfortunately step on some toes before I became aware  of my need to take a “time out” to regroup with Jesus. 


This is sort-of what my prayer time sounded like as I sat in my bedroom allowing God to nudge my stubborn heart towards the right attitude and actions:

Me: “I’m so mad right now.  I want to give him a piece of my mind.”

God: “Mmmm hmmm.  That’s not in line with what I ask of you.”

Me: “What you ask is impossible for me.  I’m so mad I can’t say “sorry.”  I just can’t turn this around and be nice when I want to teach him a lesson.  I know what you want.  I just can’t.”

God: “Unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  Hasn’t that been your prayer lately?”

Me: “Yes.  Yes it has.”

God: “… and you want to follow me.”

Me: “Yes.  I do.  I want to follow you with all my heart.”

God: “Then you’ll have to do the hard things.  You have to not let the sun go down on your anger and not give the devil an opportunity here.  I died for your sins.  You can’t hold this sin against him.”

Me: “I know, but I’m still so flaming mad.  I just can’t forgive him.  You are going to have to move a mountain here to soften my hard heart.”

I saw clearly I needed to forgive first.  Triple ugh. 


I’m not sure why it feels so hard to do this one simple thing.  When I feel wronged, I’d rather count snowflakes in Antartica than say those two simple words.  Ultimately I hung onto Jesus and I tucked my tail.  I went to my husband and said, “I’m sorry I contributed to the tension we went through.  Raising my voice didn’t help.  I know I added to the problem.”  He responded with his own apology.  

We turned back toward one another.

I’ve been making this promise lately:  I will always turn back towards you.  I will turn towards the ones I love because Jesus turns towards me when I least deserve it.

Anger can be like a hot coal we drop when we say "sorry"


Sometimes I have to turn to God before I am able to humble myself to someone else. Time spent with God straightens me out.  Then I can turn towards my husband (or whomever) instead of holding onto the hot coal of anger and keeping my heart hardened against both God and him.

Whenever we bend the knee and become willing to be the first to say “sorry,” we give God room to move between us and another person.  Choosing Jesus’ way isn’t always easy.  It feels unfair when your heart is full of what feels like justified anger. 

Walking in what is right requires us resisting the pull of our hurt emotions.  In the process we teach our children what it looks like to hang on instead of caving in.  We show them that real marriages go through real conflicts and then stand strong and fight to get back to one another because that’s what love does. 

Love fights for the relationship, not against it. Click To Tweet

white flag

Love fights for the beloved even if it means tucking our tails and being the first to say, “I’m sorry.”

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If you want to learn more about my availability to come speak to your group, you can hear a clip of me speaking or feel free to visit my page at Christian Women Speakers 

This post was first published in July, 2016.  I recently revised it to share the importance of this principle of humble forgiveness with you.  



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  • Reply
    Deborah. Cooper
    July 18, 2016 at 9:27 AM

    Thank you Patty for sharing something so personal, and trusting us to listen and learn.
    Being on the same team with family is at times hard work but so worth it.

    • Reply
      July 18, 2016 at 9:36 AM

      Thanks, Deborah.
      When I first started blogging I made the decision that I would be transparent with everyone here. I won’t tell another person’s story without their permission, but I will expose myself so that others might be blessed. I have found it can be easy or at least easier to be “spiritual” around strangers and acquaintances. The road test comes in our deeply intimate relationships. It is there we see the barometer of our spiritual health. I sure appreciate your feedback. Glad to walk alongside you as we grow in Him and towards Him.

  • Reply
    November 22, 2017 at 11:02 PM

    I think this is the first spiritual blog that I have commented on. Glad to be here. I often ask Archangel Michael to take away my frustrations when I’m feeling conflicted or crappy. He always delivers. Thanks Patty.

    • Reply
      November 23, 2017 at 8:39 AM

      Thanks for stopping by. That means the WORLD to me. I love your art and your heart. You are welcome back here anytime. I think you’d really be blessed by the posts on simplifying and slowing. They would resonate with you. Glad to have found YOU as well.

  • Reply
    January 2, 2018 at 9:21 AM

    You have been eaves dropping into my prayer closet! Thanks for letting me know I’m not alone, nor is my condition incurable…only my humanity is chronic!

    • Reply
      January 2, 2018 at 9:27 AM

      Christine, I hear you. I’m not sure if you read my other post – what to count on when you can’t count on your husband – but it would probably bless your heart. To be honest, I needed this post as much as you do. We need these reminders to humble ourselves. I texted my friend the other day – “Jon and I are having a rough moment, getting on one another’s nerves. Please pray.” She texted back, “Submit and let go. I’ll be praying. Sorry to assume you aren’t submitting.” I replied, “What makes you think I’m not submitting” and added the eye roll and a laughing emoji. I was NOT submitting. I was standing my ground, letting hurt feelings determine my responses and being self-focused instead of God-focused. I took her words to heart, prayed out my pain and turned to my husband to restore our relationship. It’s always something we are going to have to work towards and pray over. Marriage is wonderful and it is hard stuff. Thank you so much for sharing here! Your condition is not incurable and you are not alone. You’ve got this – with Jesus.

  • Reply
    Momentary Calm
    January 2, 2018 at 10:37 AM

    My husband and I have had to say sorry to each other a lot this week. It’s amazing how we want to hold onto our anger even though it doesn’t bring us anything good. I’m so glad I have a forgiving husband and a gracious God. Your post spoke so much truth and I am glad for it.

    • Reply
      January 2, 2018 at 12:37 PM

      Thank you, Shiree! I praise God that He has given you a spirit that will turn from anger. Marriage is tough sometimes. We love them and yet we put so much on them at the same time. We need one another so very much. We also need to always go through the process of needing God more than we need our husbands. This is hard – so very hard at times. I am so grateful for your comment. I’m pausing to pray for you right now – to thank God for your willing heart and to ask Him to strengthen your marriage in the places where it has been hurting and needing His touch.

  • Reply
    Bella Easterbrook
    January 2, 2018 at 2:08 PM

    Being the first to say sorry definitely takes a lot of humility…and this can come only from God!

    • Reply
      January 2, 2018 at 8:17 PM

      Bella, yes. I know people can say sorry without his help, but then it is not usually from a place of sincerity and selflessness. Only He can bring my heart to true repentance and the kind of humility that IS sorry and then says it. Thank you for bringing out that truth. I am so glad you came by Hearts Homeward. You are welcome here anytime.

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