I recently sat with a friend and opened up a tricky conversation. I owed her an apology, and I had been (somewhat reluctantly) looking for an opportunity to tell her so. In my heart, I knew she would be gracious and extend forgiveness. But it still wasn’t easy to offer up my confession.
Why was there a need to apologize to her? Well, because I had let my emotions take over. Someone had offended me, and it made me angry. In my anger, I had spouted off some unkind things about the character of the person who had offended me. It was a professional situation that my friend was leading. But I didn’t calmly go to her for advice or assistance problem-solving. Instead, I spewed impatience and frustration in front of people I already knew would take my side.
Thankfully, my behavior didn’t have any serious consequences. And because of that, I tried to tell myself I didn’t need to revisit what I had done. But for weeks I grieved my behavior. I had usurped my friend’s leadership, tarnished my witness in the presence of others, and spoken harshly about another person who was serving alongside me. And the only right thing for a Jesus-follower to do given those truths was to apologize and seek forgiveness.
We’ve all done it. Let our emotions take over and dictate our behavior. I knew immediately – even as the words came out of my mouth – that I had taken steps on the wrong path. But it was already too late. The damage was done, and I would need to prayerfully consider my next steps to repair what I had broken.
Galatians 5:25 in the Message paraphrase says, “Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.”
Our living in the Spirit is demonstrated (or not) in the daily decisions we make about our behavior. How we cope, how we respond, how we wait, and how we deal with difficult circumstances all speak the truth about what we let guide us. Is it the Spirit? Or is it our desires? Our pride? Our need to be approved of, recognized, or praised?
I am fortunate in this particular situation. My friend was loving and merciful. My God was correcting and patient. And my mishap was relatively minor. But it serves as a necessary reminder to me. Being guided by my emotions is a danger that can easily entangle me. I need to remember and keep recalling the embarrassment I felt when I realized my mistake as well as the angst I felt about approaching my friend.
It is my sincere desire to walk in the Spirit and deal with conflicts appropriately when they happen instead of doing the work to clean up the mess I’ve made. I won’t soon forget this experience. It isn’t any fun sitting with someone you care about and admitting you let them down. But what a gift to understand that forgiveness is real. It came for me from my Father and also from my friend whose response to my confession modeled to me what it means to walk in the Spirit.