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I’m Sorry. Please Forgive Me.

Last night my daughter, Anna, came home and told me I shared some information with someone that she didn’t want shared. In my mind, it really wasn’t a big deal. Come to find out, it was to her. When she delivered this news of accusation, I found myself immediately getting on the defensive, and rather than accept that I was wrong, I tried to prove I was right. Call me a slow learner.

When you step back and look at how you handle conflict, do you find yourself jumping into attack mode, defense mode, or competition mode, all to protect yourself, your inner sense of self-justification, or your “rights”? I do.

The late Henri Nouwen once described how “feathered friends” taught him some significant lessons on his use of defense mechanisms for self-protection or to get his own way (The Genesee Diary, 108).

For example, the Killdeer is a bird that simulates injury in order to pull your attention away from her nest which she builds on a sandy place. How many times do we try to divert people’s attention away from the real issue by playing on the sympathies of others? We simulate in order to sidestep: “Yes, I know you think I let you down by not showing up the other day, but you don’t understand what happened to me yesterday.”

The Cowbird lays her eggs in another bird’s nest to let them do the brooding, and then she does the raising once hatched. This is where we put the monkey on someone else’s back in order to avoid responsibility: “No, this problem isn’t mine. Look at what she’s done to me.”

The Oriole mimics the sounds of more dangerous birds to keep the enemies away. We could call this the intimidation tactic: “I sound tough. I sound smart. I can rip you to shreds verbally. I can out-talk, out-smart, and out-do you, so you’d better leave me alone!”

The Red-winged blackbird screams so loud overhead that you get tired of her noise and leave the area she has claimed as her own. This is the shouting method: “I’ll keep yelling at you at the top of my lungs because I’m right, you’re wrong, and eventually you’ll give up!”

Fortunately, I didn’t use any of these defense mechanisms on Anna. I started to, because my default mode is self-preservation. I want to protect my ego, pride, and sense of self-worth. But what I continue to learn from Jesus is that the more I die to self, the more I rise to self-fulfillment.

So, what did I say to Anna? The five words that will help grow any relationship—when they are spoken from the heart: “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

I challenge you to center your relationships on seeking to understand rather than defending your pride. Follow the Apostle Paul’s prescription to “look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4, ESV).

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

Courage Has Fallen on Hard Times

Without sounding too much like a boastful dad, I’m proud of all three of my kids, and two weeks ago my youngest son gave me another reason why.

As a freshman at Indiana University, Luke is required to take Introduction to Speech.  Remember those fun days?  All thirty students were required to give a position speech on a controversial topic.  He chose gentrification.  One student chose gender identity.  Another student chose abortion.  No disrespect to his topic, but it was like the kiddie pool in a wave-pool theme park. 

With each speech, the professor asked the students to choose which side they were on and why.  When it came to the speech on abortion, the professor asked who was pro-choice, and every student raised his or her hand . . . every student except one.

When Luke told me this story, I asked him how he felt being the minority, and he said, “Dad, I think there were other students who are pro-life, but they probably caved in under pressure.” 

Why do we do that? Why do we cave in under pressure? In looking back over the years, I know I have.  I’ve been in meetings where I’ve not spoken up because I knew I held the minority view. I’ve been with friends who swayed me to do things I knew were wrong.  I’ve laughed at inappropriate jokes because I wanted to fit in. 

Courage has fallen on hard times.

In a classic study conducted by Charlan Nemeth and Cynthia Chiles, a researcher showed a group of four participants a series of twenty slides all marked with the color blue. The participants were asked to state the color of each slide.  It was an easy task, and all four said, “Blue” (The Power of Moments, 191-192).

Then the group was divided, and each participant was put into a new group with three other participants. This time the first slide was red, but oddly the first three participants called the color “orange.”  That happened nineteen more times with the three other group members insisting the color was always orange.  On average, the fourth participant, who was part of the original group, called fourteen of the twenty red slides “orange,” conforming to the majority’s incorrect view.  (The other three participants, as you might have guessed, were pre-arranged.)

In another series of tests, when one of the group participants stood up to the majority view, other group participants started to do the same.  What’s the moral of the story?  The bad news is that when no one takes a stand, most people cave to the majority view, even if it is wrong.  The good news is that when someone is brave enough to defy the majority, others are emboldened and follow suit.

In other words, courage is contagious.  Thank you, Luke, for showing your dad (and others) a moment of courage.  Now the question is, Who is going to follow?    

“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13, NIV).

Posted by Rick Grover, Lead Pastor with

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