I occasionally get asked for advice about being a new husband or a first time dad. Since I got married young and had kids young I have “experience”, I guess. By “experience”, of course, I mean battle scars and bruises from my regular encounters with my own idiocy and penchant for mistakes. I must look like a weathered veteran or something.
When the question is put to me “what piece of advice would you give to a new husband/dad” I always want to come up with something that would make Solomon jealous and Confucius plagiarize. Instead, all I have ever been able to come up with is this: “Always apologize first.”
Somewhere along the way I was given this piece of advice (or pieces of advice that added up to it) by a particularly wise counselor, and it has been an astoundingly prescient word by which to live. It falls under the banner of “A soft answer turns away wrath.” It enforces humility and self-examination. And it douses the flames that threaten to burn bridges between wife and husband or father and children.
To apologize first requires a person to genuinely reflect on his role in any conflict. I can’t remember many occasions when I was totally innocent in a conflict with my wife or children. There is nearly always something for which I should apologize. If I am always intent on apologizing first I will dig through my heart to find that word or attitude that caused hurt or conflict.
Apologizing first encourages the other person to apologize. It makes it easier for them to make the long leap because you shortened it to a small step. It’s much easier to say “I’m sorry too” than it is to simply say “I’m sorry.” Do the hard part so that it’s easier for others to follow in kind.
Apologizing is a beautiful example for your children (and spouse). I know too many people who can’t remember their parents ever admitting wrong doing or apologizing for anything. To apologize to my 5-year-old daughter for losing my temper or for speaking unkindly to my wife is powerful for her. It creates a culture of humility and (hopefully) forgiveness. It builds trust because she learns she too can safely say she’s is sorry and be forgiven. Most importantly it opens a door to explain to her that dad is far from perfect and I need to be forgiven by God, through Jesus, just like she does.
I’m certain there are other pieces of advice that are profound and life-changing, but this is the best I’ve got. It has blessed my home and I trust it could do the same for you.