Nothing says, “I value this relationship” quite like confession and surrender.
We are living in a culture of advocacy and tribal contention. If watching the news or listening to talk radio or reading through your social media feeds makes you angry or frustrated, that is probably the reason. We are literally inundated with voices screaming for their tribe and advocating for their issue. Among the fatalities in such a culture are meaningful relationships, both old and new. For you see, having the kinds of conversations that actually make relationship meaningful is completely counter-cultural in this setting. And among those conversations that actually make relationships healthy, none is more counter-intuitive than honestly and genuinely dealing with how we have hurt someone. We call that “confession”. And, oh boy, do we struggle with it.
Jesus told a story about a rebellious son who left home abruptly, breaking his father’s heart. After that son came to the end of his rope (and came to his senses), he decided to go back home and salvage whatever he could salvage of his relationship with his father. He prepared to have a conversation about the pain he knew he had caused the father. His “confession” is a model way to start such a conversation:
When he was still a long way off, his father saw him. His heart pounding, he ran out, embraced him, and kissed him. The son started his speech: ‘Father, I’ve sinned against God, I’ve sinned before you; I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again. Luke 15:20-21 (The Message)
Notice some of the key elements of his confession. First, he worked to see the truth about what he had done, seeing it the same way God saw it. Second, he also worked to see the pain through the eyes of the person he had hurt. Third, he fully accepted whatever the consequences of his wrongdoing might be, no matter how harsh or unfair they might have seemed: I don’t deserve to be called your son ever again. But, most importantly, he demonstrated from his heart that it was more important to him to be in a right relationship with his father than to be right. This rebellious son had a complete change of heart and chose to surrender completely to the relationship rather than to hold onto any notion of being right or of winning.
The model for us is clear. When the time comes for us to have a hard conversation about what has hurt the other person in our relationship, we have a hard decision to make. Ultimately, we have to decide what is more important: being right or being in right relationship. Choosing the relationship over our prideful needs proves to the other person how important they are to us. Think about how different our culture would be with just a hint of this kind of attitude toward our relationships with one another. More importantly, think about how different our families would be if this were both valued and taught.