July 21, 2022

Apologies and Forgiveness

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In any relationship there are mistakes made on both sides. As human beings we aren’t perfect; we can let our insecurities, fears, irritations and anger get the better of us at some point or another, causing hurt to others. Inevitably, the people around us will harm us and we will harm them. Since there is no going back in time, the best we can expect from one another is an honest apology and a change in behaviour. “I’m sorry” is an essential phrase in the language of healthy relationships. It can be difficult for us, even after a heartfelt apology, to forgive. Forgiveness is the hardest step, especially after deep and long-lasting hurt. When considering what makes a healthy Christian leader, demonstrating forgiveness is essential. A leader at their best engaged in honest dialogue after hurt, lets go of resentment and grudges and graciously releases others from their past wrongdoings.    

During the process of burnout recovery, I came to the realisation that burnout hadn’t just affected me but also those close to me. I found myself more critical of those around me, in conversation and in my thoughts. Over-indulging in food and drink. I would fall asleep early, sleep poorly and have trouble engaging with those around me. When pain is intense, we lose sight of what is happening in other people because, typically, we are focused on ourselves. My wife, Adrienne explains how my behaviour during burnout hurt her in my recent book Burnout and Beyond:

“We may fight with feelings of rejection by the one person we thought would always be present and listening in conversation, always buoyant, approachable and engaging. We may think, ‘Who is this person? This is not the person I married! This one drinks too much, falls asleep in front of the TV, then keeps me awake because he tosses and turns and snores; he gets defensive when I talk about difficulties, is irritable with me and the kids, is easily critical, withdraws to his phone…’ Ah, yes, sometimes it feels like we are flying solo, and our wingman has dropped off the plane.” 

It was painful to acknowledge my faults during my burnout, and even after an apology, and after Adrienne felt she understood the circumstances and reasons I was acting the way I did, it was hard for her to feel like she could fully understand and rely on me again. I am so grateful that Adrienne was open to hearing my apology and forgave me for my behaviour. After I began recovery from burnout, we were able to have some much-needed discussions about my health and behaviours and how it had affected us both.

I found addressing these questions and following these tips made this conversation easier and more effective:

  • Wait until you are both ready to have this conversation. If you are still recovering or still very angry, you may act defensively or say things you don’t mean. 
  • Make intentional space for these conversations. Set the time and stick to it. 
  • Put your phone on flight mode to avoid distraction. Focus on the person in front of you.

Questions to ask yourself before a hard conversation:

How healthy are you right now? 

Can you see clearly? 

Are you inherently critical? 

Have you seen growing negative trends in your behaviour or character? 

Questions to ask yourself after a hard conversation:

What can I do differently next time? 

How can I develop a different mindset? 

Who can help me?

What actions will I take today? 

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