Despite the weather, I’m going to assume Spring is in the air. At my household this will mean several bouts of spring cleaning. This, for me, is a dreaded, dreaded time. In part, I loathe these elbow-grease scrubbing sessions because our home is utterly spotless. My wife is the cute female version (and one that doesn’t lose it later on with a mid-life crisis) of Danny Tanner. All throughout the year we weekly engage—and by “we” I mean she—in spring cleaning, so sometimes it is hard for me to keep from going through the motions when her seasonal cleaning fervor comes on. It would be like putting someone in tip-top shape on The Biggest Loser—it would be hard for the guy with washboard abs to really buy into the Last Chance Workout.
Knowing all of this allows me to foreshadow how things will go: I will certainly make a mockery out of spring cleaning, and hence I will cause a grime build-up in our relationship. She’ll tell me to do something, I’ll smart off, she’ll get her feathers ruffled (in the tidiest of ways, of course), and we’ll feud our way about the house for a weekend or two.
And content as I am to stick to my guns, even if it means sin builds up in my household, I read a verse today that causes me pause. Try as a I might I couldn’t unread the following text:
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all (Romans 12:18).
Once again, the Bible had me—and in such a delicate way, too, with all of its niceties in full effect (“if possible” and the like). But the other thing I notice is this—the Bible knows I’m going to fail! That is why the language says “if possible” at all! Sometimes, living peaceably with my wife and others, will, for me, be completely impossible! “FREEDOM!” shouts William Wallace in my head. I can do whatever I want, right? I can ruin spring cleaning and anything else I rationalize as “impossible” for me to live peaceably with! Blessed new existence!
Of course, I know the truth—the silly, stupid truth of it all. I can live at peace with a good wife who tells me once a year to run the vacuum cleaner. It is well within the bounds of the fruit of the Spirit for me to wipe down my toilet on occasion. But, still, even before we get there, I know that I am going to blow it. I’ll run my mouth, I’ll disappear for hours at a time, I’ll hurt my wife’s feelings. And you can substitute my wife and spring cleaning out for my friends and family and any number of interactions during which I’ll put myself first or say something out of place or callously cause someone harm. It is just what I do, and, I would wager, it is something you may very well do too. It makes me think (regrettably) of the Miley Cyrus song “Wrecking Ball” or whatever it is called. “I came in like a wrecking ball,” she says over and over—I promise it is the only line I know, I promise it is the only line I know, I promise it is the only line I know. But truly, isn’t that the story of all of us in our marriages, parenthood, work relationships? Often we come in destructively, whether we mean to or not. We swing to-and-fro crashing into things we never even intend to make contact with, and our relationships lay fractured on the ground.
Sadly, this is where many of us leave things. We swing out, just as quickly as we came and try to forget the whole mess. Or we try to rationalize how much of it was the other party’s fault. “Well, when she tells me the living room floor ‘isn’t a closet’ in that tone, how can she really expect me not to ask her ‘why she doesn’t go nag up another tree for a while and give me some peace and quiet?’?” (I’ve never actually said this, which is why there is still life in my body enough for me to write it.) If we can find the other person at any fault at all, it gives us a pass to walk away from the damage with a passive, smug shrug.
But this is not our calling. We are to, “Live peaceably with others, so far as it depends on you.” I am responsible for my end of things. I’ve been given the ability to seek peace and to engage humility, and that is my responsibility—no excuses, no rationalizations, no backhanded apologies. I’m to go to my wife, when I inevitably screw up and ask for her forgiveness in a ‘no strings attached’ manner.
Oh, this is a cruel, hard task too. Asking forgiveness is just brutal, isn’t it? That is why I like to apply the Zelda Rule to forgiveness. The Zelda Rule was simply a Nintendo playing code of ethics I formulated and maintained as a youngster that stated I would always try to beat Nintendo games straight up—no cheat codes, no Game Genies, no calling Adam (the neighbor kid who was like that Autistic kid from that movie The Wizard). Unless, of course, said game was really, really difficult—like Zelda—in which case moderate cheating was permissible.
Since forgiveness is that kind of hard, one helpful tool to employ is called “The Seven A’s of Confession” by Ken Sandle Here are those seven A’s with short explanations:
-Address everyone involved (All those whom you affected)
If you have been a jerk around your house, get everyone gathered up just in case your jerkiness splattered on unintended subjects. Get the wife and kids and peaceably address everyone involved. This can be the same with those whom you share a cubicle with or whatever. It is best to get everyone and not leave anyone feeling jilted left behind.
-Avoid if, but, and maybe (Do not try to excuse your wrongs)
I do this. I was lippy for a very specific reason and IF I hadn’t been tired or MAYBE IF you had used a better tone or I was lippy BUT society made me that way . . . Nope. Don’t do that. Just come right out with it. Own it.
-Admit specifically (Both attitudes and actions)
People need to hear that you understand how you wronged them. They just do. So give them that, and be specific—“I’m sorry I used my car keys to spell obscenities into your new vehicle while shouting said obscenities at you over the phone.” Hopefully not that specific, but clearly stating what you did wrong is important, both to you and your hearer(s).
-Acknowledge the hurt (Express sorrow for hurting someone)
Not “Sorry you were hurt,” either. No, “I’m sorry for the pain I caused” or “I know I hurt you, and I’m sorry.” Your wrongdoing is not some flaw in them. Keep the onus on yourself and your harmful actions.
-Accept the consequences (Such as making restitution)
This could be paying for the car you keyed, vacuuming the stairs enthusiastically, or, and this is really tough, waiting for them to forgive—however long they need.
-Alter your behavior (Change your attitudes and actions)
I want to get good at seeking forgiveness because 1) it is right and 2) I am humble. I do not want to get good at forgiveness because I get to ask forgiveness for the same offenses over and over and over again.
-Ask for forgiveness
Always Be Closing, right? You didn’t humble yourself just to walk away when the music swells–It’s solo time! Ask the person/people you wronged for forgiveness, and now things are no longer in your court but in theirs.
(This also might be the appropriate time to pray for the injured party and for restoration, either there with them or privately.)
I hope I spring clean better this year; things will just be sunnier if I do. But if I do bring on the clouds of frustration and strike my wife with the lightning of my tongue, I hope I’ll do what is right and reasonable, seeking forgiveness and restoring peace.