Sunday, March 29, 2009

About Apologies that Aren't

Following some correspondence with Voddie Baucham, I posted this information about apologies on the Under Much Grace Blog. The information on apologies can be helpful when working through forgiveness, and I think this is a good place to start on the subject.

What exactly is an apology? The word originates from the Greek (and the Latin) word “apologia” which literally means a "plea" or “a speech in one’s own defense.” This straight definition more closely resembles the meaning of the word “apologetics” which we use to describe giving an account of one’s faith and the hope within us, with both meekness and patience. It also corresponds with the third possible definition that the Oxford Dictionary lists: “a justification or defense.” But in terms of asking for forgiveness (the process of repentance for causing an offense), what the Oxford describes as “a regretful acknowledgment of regret or failure” and how we most commonly use the word, using a defensive approach usually proves to be a poor one.

In terms of asking for forgiveness, using just the Oxford dictionary’s first description alone, an apology includes a few components – something that gives it meaning and substance.
  • Failure
  • Acknowledgment
  • Regret
Both parties must acknowledge that the offending party committed an act that either failed to meet a certain standard or resulted in some undesirable outcome. The person offering a sincere apology must be specific about this action and the outcome, because the rest of the apology builds upon this foundation. That is why general, blanket apologies which do not make clear that the offending party understands what they’ve done lack substance. An apology teaches each party more about their own boundaries and the boundaries of others, hopefully effecting some lasting change for the better of both as a result of the learning process. If there is no identification of the specific failure, can there be any way to avoid repeating it in the future?

Many weak apologies avoid assignment of responsibility for failure, because it is a painful and disappointing process to do so. Our human nature tends to discourage an objective view of ourselves, complete with all of our faults. Taking responsibility for failures points out to us that we are flawed, inadequate, limited, and sometimes, powerless. And sometimes that acknowledgment of our responsibilities reveals the dishonor in our own hearts. Apologies become even more difficult when circumstances beyond one’s control contributed to the failure or offense, particularly when the person responsible for starting the chain of events never intended and could not foresee the end result of the negative outcome. When a person behaves responsibly and another suffers harm or offence as a result, the offending party comes face to face with the limitations of their humanity, and this can challenge beliefs such as the idea that “Life is fair,” or “I am a basically good person that is in control of my environment.”

All apologies must include some expression of regret. Regret poses an even more difficult aspect to measure, though it is also an essential element of a true and sincere apology. Sometimes apologies are offered with all the right components, but sometimes, the party offering them can only be making the effort for their own personal gain. If they experience negative consequences as a result of their actions themselves, if the offer of apology proves to be just a public show to promote a certain persona of themselves to others, or if the party has been compelled against their natural inclination to make amends by some outside influence, then the apology can be more offensive than the original act of offense for the one who "sees through" the ingenuous apology. These insincere apologies only draw attention to the lack of care, respect and consideration that the offending party holds for the offended. It only intensifies the injury.

As it is often difficult to measure regret, it is here where one’s actions often speak louder than our words when conveying an apology. Efforts of restitution speak powerfully to the offended on behalf of the one who committed the offense, as true regret includes a desire to restore the other party. An effort to make restitution serves to seal an apology and can become a measure of the apology’s essential element of regret. Timing and the manner in which one offers an apology also adds to the effectiveness. The person offering an apology must show contrition and contrition regarding the right elements, as apologies should never serve as license to commit the offense again. Without contrition, there is not impetus to avoid the act in the future.

Read the whole post HERE.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Learning to Say "No"

OK to say NO!

By Adele Hebert

Jesus used images concerning the end of time. Both men and women are in these stories; both must be ready; both treated equally. Both involve hard choices, even saying NO!

What sort of servant, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their food at the proper time? Happy that servant if his master arrival finds him at his employment. I tell you solemnly, he will place him over everything he owns. His master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know. (Mt 24:45-51; Lk 12:42-46 says female servants as well.)

Immediately following is the second story, about the wise and foolish bridesmaids. Jesus took great effort to illustrate the same point, this time focusing on women. The big difference is that the women in this parable use their voice. This is a powerful lesson for women. They are not simply told what to do. In fact, they do not obey. Jesus gave women dignity, always defended them, and taught them about boundaries, not to allow abuse.

Jesus NEVER once told women that they had to submit to anyone. The word submit does not occur in the Greek; the actual word is Support. There is much confusion concerning submission. We want to do the right thing, but we don know where to draw the line. Often, we don draw any lines at all, or the lines that we do draw are way past the safety zone. We realize it when we are over our heads in trouble; then we get depressed and don know why. So where are the lines to be drawn that will keep us safe, walking in truth, and in the center of God's will? The word submit is still used to keep women in bondage. Without knowing these boundary lines, we allow others to use us. Jesus ADVISED women to use boundaries.

Ask yourself, would God want me to do this? Women, this is the boundary line! We have been taught that we are to blindly obey our spouse, but that is not from God. So we obey out of fear. We obey to keep the peace. But Abraham made Sarah lie. Ahasuerus wanted Vashti to show her beauty; she rightly refused. God gave us His Word so we will not be deceived. The Lord would not have us do anything ungodly or under coercion or manipulation. You are NEVER to submit to abuse. Here Jesus tells women they SHOULD say NO!

Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise: the foolish ones took their lamps, but no oil, whereas the wise ones took oil as well as their lamps. The bridegroom was late, and they all grew drowsy and fell asleep. But at midnight there was a cry, he bridegroom is here! Go out and meet him. At this, all those bridesmaids woke up and trimmed their lamps, and the foolish ones said to the wise ones, ive us some of our oil: our lamps are going out. But they replied, NO, there may not be enough for us and for you; go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves. (Mt 25:1-13) At times we Need to say NO. One of the most crucial lessons for women in the whole bible is right here. Jesus gave women permission to say, NO! Check out another woman with boundaries and a voice Lk 1:60.

*NO! an extremely valuable word for women*. Jesus gave women the right to say NO to stand up for themselves, for what is right, to protect themselves. Jesus Advised, even Encouraged us to say No!

Women, get boundaries or you will get used!

Adapted by Stephen Gola and Leonard Swidler.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Asking God For Help With Forgiveness

A Christian perspective on
forgiveness ~
From Dr. Stoop’s
“Making Peace with your Father”

Pages 238 -239:

God knows our pain, our loss, our disappointments. He longs to heal our brokenness. He could do so instantly – but then we would not learn the lessons that are vital to our healing. For most of us, His promise to heal our broken hearts will be fulfilled over a period of time.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews assures us that “this High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses...So let us come boldly to the throne of God and stay there to receive his mercy and to find grace to help us in our times of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16). We can stay there as long as we need to in order to experience the fullness of God’s healing grace.

As you work through the process of healing... invite your loving heavenly Father into the process with you. Allow him to heal your shame and guilt. Bathe each step you take in prayer. Ask God to empower you to follow through on each step and to endure the pain and hurt you experience. Ask him for the courage to risk making changes, both in your behavior and in your expectations. Ask him to give you the grace to forgive, so that you may be released from the bondage of the past.

Then ask him to give you the robe of honor, the ring of authority and the shoes of a beloved son or daughter. Let God show himself to you as the Father to the fatherless.

He has already made peace with you. He is waiting for you to come home.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Ideas About How To Approach Peacemaking

A Christian perspective on
forgiveness ~
From Dr. Stoop’s
“Making Peace with your Father”

Facing the Truth

pages 189 - 232:

Step One:
  • Identify the Symptoms

Step Two:
  • Get the Facts

Step Three:
  • Identify Family Secrets and Family Myths

Step Four:
  • Speak the Unspoken

Step Five:
  • Rewrite History

Step Six:
  • Process the Losses

Step Seven:
  • Wait

Step Eight:
  • Forgive

Step Nine:
  • Invite Others to Share Your Journey

Step Ten:
  • Explore New Roles

Step Eleven:
  • Redeem the Past

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Terrorizing Father

A Christian perspective on forgiveness ~
From Dr. Stoop’s
“Making Peace with your Father”

Pages 181 - 182:

Additional Losses from the Terrorizing Father:

1. The child often experiences deep fear that turns into despair.

2. He or she may lead a life of denial in which all emotions are buried.

3. He or she may surrender to helplessness and adopt the identity and lifestyle of a perpetual victim, constantly immersed in fear, guilt and depression.

4. He or she may become angry and defiant in an attempt to obliterate a deep fear about life.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Abusive Father's Loss

A Christian perspective on forgiveness ~
From Dr. Stoop’s
“Making Peace with your Father”

Page 175:

Additional Losses from the Abusive Father:

1. The child is pushed back toward the mother, even more than with the absent father. As a young adult, the abused person may feel unable to leave home.

2. The child develops a fearful posture toward all of life.

3. The cycle of abuse is onften carried over into the next generation.

4. Common symptoms include academic problems, dropping out of school, running away, suicide.

5. As an adult, the abused person often becomes hypervigilant, consumed with anxiety about real or imagined danger.

6. The abused person is typically fearful of anger, both in himself and others.

7. In adult life, the abused person is commonly subject to bouts of serious depression.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Seeing Our Parents Realistically

A Christian perspective on
forgiveness ~
From Dr. Stoop’s
“Making Peace with your Father”

Page 169:

Think about your own mental image of your father.

If the picture you carry of him seems too good to be true, there is a good chance that it isn’t true. I am certainly not advocating that we set out to adopt a harshly negative view of our fathers – or of anyone else, for that matter.

It is entirely right for us to view our parents with charity and respect. But we also need to adopt a realistic view of our parents, acknowledging both their strengths and their weaknesses. Only when we see them as they truly are can we relate to them on a solid footing of reality. Only then are we free to grow up and become healthy adults ourselves.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The All-Good Father

A Christian perspective on forgiveness ~
From Dr. Stoop’s
“Making Peace with your Father”

Page 167 - 168:

Sherri’s father died when she was twelve. When I asked her what she remembered about him, she smiled and described a virtuous, heroic, utterly perfect human being. I pressed her for any less-than-perfect aspects he may have had, but the more I did, the more positive traits she recited. The tables were turned when we discussed her mother. Sherri had nothing good whatesoever to say about her.

What Sherri was doing is called “splitting.” It represents our tendency to make one person all-good and the other person all-bad. Little children do it all the time; it’s a natural part of the process of emotional development. When adults practice splitting, however, it can cause trouble.

In her strong attachment to the too-good father, Sherri was setting herself up for some serious problems. To preserve her image of her father, she had to explain away his shortcomings as inadequacies in someone else. First it was her mother: Dad was all-good; Mom was all-bad. Eventually Sherri attached this badness to herself as well. Her idealized view of her father was the driving force behind a perfectionism that enslaved her.

Sherri’s unrealistic view of her father also led her to adopt a good husband, but Sherri had come to see him as hopelessly inadequate. She resented his weakness and believed there was almost nothing that she could do better than he could. She laughed at the very thought of comparing Walt to her father.

Without realizing it, Sherri had cast her marriage in the same mold as she had her parents – seeing one person as the repository of all that is good, and the other as the embodiment of all that is bad. No matter what issues we discussed, her inevitable refrain was that Walt had to “fix himself” before they could hope to have a successful marriage. Until Sherri becomes comfortable with the untidiness of human reality – that all fo us have both good and bad qualities, bot that all fo us are unique and valuable just the same – she will be imprisoned by her distorted view of life.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

So Easy to Blame

Christians weighing in on Botkin Syndrome:
Excerpts from
"Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves"
by Drs. Stoop and Masteller.

From pages 246 - 250:

Sometimes we blame others as cover-up for fear, fear of punishment, embarrassment, responsibility, and the like. Self-protection is a strong drive in all of us.

At the most basic level, our tendency to blame others probably stems from our fundamental conviction that we ourselves are blameless. Isn’t that right? We might never come out and say it, but deep in our heart we know that we are just, honorable, and upright. When things go wrong, it must be someone else’s fault. Surely it couldn’t be ours ...

Face it: we want to blame. When we have been hurt – or think we have – something in us wants to place the blame somewhere (usually on someone else). But the more we blame, the farther we walk down the dangerous path of bitterness. The path never leads us to health and happiness, only to deeper distress...

Do you see where this leads? Eventually we get all the way back to Eve – who, as we have seen, shirked her own responsibility as well. In other words, the blame game leads nowhere. All it does is prove that we are all flawed, imperfect people living in a flawed, imperfect world where “stuff happens.” So why bother playing it at all? Why not get off the path of bitterness and get on the path of forgiveness?

Excerpt from
Dr. David Stoop & Dr. James Masteller's
"Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves:
Healing Adult Children of Dysfunctional Families"
Regal/Gospel Light, 1996 (Servant, 1991)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Blame Game

From Harriet Lerner in

“The Dance of Anger”:

This is the who-started-it game – the search for a beginning of a sequence, where the aim is to proclaim which person is to blame for the behavior of both.

But we know that this interaction is really a circular dance in which the behavior of one partner maintains and provokes the behavior of the other.

The circular dance has no beginning and no end. In the final analysis, it matters little who started it. The question of greater significance is: “How do we break out of it?”

(pg. 56).

Monday, March 2, 2009

Our Fallen Humanity and Family Dysfunction

Townsend, Cloud, Carder, and Brawand in

“Secrets of Your Family Tree”:

You may feel that your family of origin wasn’t dysfunctional since your father wasn’t and alcoholic....

The truth is, however, that due to the fallen nature of all parents (and children), all families are flawed and therefore dysfunctional to a certain degree.

Addictive and complusive behaviors (addicted to food, sex, work, and so on) are extremely common in even “the best of families,” and such behavior is almost always linked to some form of dysfunctional family background.

(pg. 15)