The smell of sulfuric smoke hit my senses. I ran into the kitchen frantically and gasped. The top element coil in our oven was shooting flames all over the beautiful lobster tails I had just put in it to broil. My courageous husband rushed to the rescue and and retrieved the poor little crustaceans from their fiery doom. I became frustrated after gazing on the pathetic, charred tails and then started apologizing to my brave hero for ruining his main course of supper. He gently replied, “Honey, it’s not your fault. It’s ok. We can still work with this.” He then put the sad looking lobster tails into a sauté pan with some butter and within a couple minutes we were sitting down for supper after all.
I kept saying, “I’m sorry” the rest of the night. This is nothing new. I somehow picked up this strange quirk when I was younger. Whenever I would mess up in even the slightest way, I would quickly apologize to my parents or brother or whomever was around. Yes, I have even been caught saying, “I’m sorry” to inanimate objects. I realized this habit was getting quite out of hand when my brother caught me one day and exclaimed, “Victoria! Did you just apologize to the garbage can for running into it?!”
My father talked to me one afternoon in high school about my increasingly frequent apologies. I remember his wise words: “If you say something over and over, it loses the weight of its intended meaning. If you apologize all the time over little things, how will people be able to believe you when something substantial arises?” Ouch. Good point. I didn’t realize how detrimental two little words could become.
Why was I apologizing all the time? I didn’t really figure it out until the lobster tail incident a couple weeks ago. I finally realized I apologize frequently because I don’t want to disappoint anyone. There. I said it. In other words, I am a perfectionist who wants everyone to be happy. If I feel that I have jeopardized someone’s happiness, I immediately apologize. But this is just the beginning of the issue. What I also realized that fateful night while trying to cook those beautiful lobster tails is that I even feel the need to apologize for things that are completely out of my control. It wasn’t my fault that the oven element burst into flames. I couldn’t have foreseen that malfunction. So why on earth did I feel the need to say I was sorry over and over again?
I used to think I apologized frequently because I cared so much about others and their feelings. That is only part of the truth. The other piece to this puzzle I have finally put together is that I apologize frequently because I am a perfectionist. I have such high standards of myself that I don’t allow myself room to disappoint others. For pete’s sake-I don’t even allow myself room to bump into the garbage can! It’s so ridiculous. This is not ok. Having unachievable standards is detrimental-to me, those around me, and to my relationship with Jesus. It cripples me. I focus on the procedure, rather than the outcome. I hurt people by being more concerned about my performances than about them. I beat myself up again and again by building impossible tasks and goals to achieve. I forget that I am nothing without Christ.
Only Jesus is perfect. Anytime I try to be perfect without relying on His power, I automatically fail before even beginning. So should I stop trying to be holy as He is holy? No. Should I stop apologizing altogether? No. I should ask Jesus what his agenda for my day is before making my own plans. I should be ok with failing multiple times daily. I should apologize on the really important instances where I truly have wronged someone. I should put others first and my pride last.
Thanks, Perfect One, for being patient with me and for loving me despite my many imperfections. Help me to give grace to others and to myself as you have done.
“As for God, His way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.” (Psalm 18:30)