Guilt-Induced and Manipulative Apologies

There are two types of apologies that are unhelpful and negatively impact both the giver and the recipient. It’s time we break free from the habit of saying “sorry” when we really aren’t.

I’ve offered many apologies in my lifetime. Plenty were heartfelt, and I genuinely meant them. I owed them. However, I’m starting to realize that I have also given many apologies that weren’t owed nor did I really mean. I’ve apologized way too many times out of guilt.

Two Types of Guilt-Induced/Manipulative Apologies:

1) A response to someone’s reaction to me.

I’ve spoken what I either believe to be truth or my sincere opinion, and people don’t always react well. When someone doesn’t react well to what I say, I have developed the bad habit of thinking that I owe them an apology. I try to remedy the situation by giving apologies that I don’t truly mean. I don’t owe anyone an apology for speaking my mind or sharing my opinion.

Recently, I had a public discussion about pastor’s salaries. Someone I know read this particular discussion and ended up blocking me on social media. I shouldn’t have felt bad about that. I mean, it’s an overdramatic reaction, in my opinion. However, I did feel bad for their reaction, so I sent a private apology. Not long after, I was wondering why I sent that apology. I didn’t mean it. I wasn’t sorry. I actually still held to my same opinion and views regarding the pastor’s salaries discussion.

I’m working on breaking my habit of feeling like I need to apologize to people who don’t like my personal views and opinions. They’re just thatmy personal views and opinions. Your reaction to them is totally up to you. I’m done feeling guilty about having things to say. I’m also not interested in giving false apologies; even when I do it thinking it’ll help the other person. It won’t. It, ultimately, doesn’t help either of us, and I’m not one to purposefully be disingenuous.

2) A response to my reaction of others.

There’s no telling how many times I’ve apologized to people for how I responded to their actions that hurt me. In other words, I have been apologizing for being hurt by others. This is abusive and manipulative, and no one should ever make you feel like you’re in the wrong for being hurt by someone else and reacting accordingly.

They hurt me.

I react to that hurt.

They get angry because of my reaction to the hurt they caused.

I apologize to them for how I reacted to the hurt they caused.

The initial hurt is never brought up again.

In my experience, this occurred quite frequently in regards to years of psychological and emotional abuse I endured from my brother’s wife, and also from spiritual and emotional abuse that I was receiving in the church environment I was in and from certain church leaders there. The time frame in which there was an overlapping of these events was particularly hellish. It seemed like nonstop “I’m sorry for reacting in hurt when you hurt me.” I drove my mental health into the ground while trying to keep the peace and continuously trying to patch things back together; both with my biological family and with my “church family.” These are the apologies that I never should have given because I never owed them. These are the apologies that should have been given to me but never were.

This is where I had to finally accept many apologies that I never actually received so that I could move on from these people and situations.

Next time, before you apologize, make sure that your motives and reasons are good and correct. Don’t apologize if you don’t mean it; save yourself and the other person the false peace and coming confusion. Also, do not apologize for being hurt and/or reacting to hurt. Never allow anyone to make you feel like you own an apology in that kind of situation. You don’t. In summary, don’t apologize from a place of guilt. That will help you avoid both of these situations.

Peace, Unity, and Pot Stirrers

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is very much a Social Gospel. To some of you, that may be the most controversial thing you’ve ever heard someone say about the Gospel. I suppose if the phrase “Social Gospel” just doesn’t sit well with you, we can say that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is very much saturated in social issues. Rarely do we see Jesus not entangled in the social issues of His day. I don’t think there could have possibly been anything more socially scandalous during this time—when the Roman Empire reigned and the Jewish people were prosperous—than someone coming along and being heralded as the King of the Jews and the prophesied Messiah. It only took one scandalous incarnation to completely upset and upheave two massively powerful social orders of political and religious persuasions.

Often times, Jesus puts Himself purposefully and directly in the middle of social issues. He chose to hang out with prostitutes and tax collectors. He chose to associate with the Samaritan woman at the well. He chose to heal on the Sabbath. He chose to drop the stones and pardon the woman caught in adultery. Things seemed to be going just fine in the Temple before Jesus walked in, flipped the tables over, and called it a “den of thieves.” And, dare we not forget, He chose to go to the cross—a social issue of Roman execution through the pressure of the Jewish leaders. Jesus died on a Roman cross with a sign detailing His crime as “King of the Jews.”

It’s interesting because the Jews had been awaiting the arrival of a Messiah who held political power and would rise up as King of the Jews to save them from Rome. Maybe the sign above Jesus’ cross could have just as easily read “Jesus of Nazareth: Social Justice Warrior.” Wasn’t that His true crime—shaking up the social issues of His time? Jesus preached a Gospel that set the captives free from social injustice: the poor and oppressed captive, the marginalized captive, the female captive, the gentile captive. The Gospel of Jesus is ultimately about freedom from sin, but when we realize that the root of all social injustice is sin, we see why Jesus and His Gospel can’t be separated from social issues. Jesus certainly wasn’t interested in keeping the peace when doing so would have been at the expense of inequality and those being oppressed and mistreated.

It’s amazing to me how much flack social justice advocates are forced to take these days; just for advocating in churches that have clear social justice problems. My foremost area of advocating is for egalitarianism: the theological and biblical belief that men and women are equal in essence as well as in authority and leadership. There is no such thing as “gender roles.” This is sometimes known as Biblical Feminism.

When people like myself speak out in churches that embrace the false beliefs of male-headship, wifely submission, and all other things complementarian; we are accused of causing disunity. Jory Micah, in her blog post entitled “I Will Not Conform to Make False Peace,” hit the nail on the head for me when she wrote, “The thing is, I am not interested in unity that is at the expense of the oppressed. I am not interested in staying silent on behalf of the girls and women who are being treated unjustly so that I can make privileged [Christians] feel more comfortable.”

I have found myself in a similar situation. Before finally leaving, I was constantly being accused of causing disunity in my church due to my strong advocating of women’s rights and egalitarianism in a church that strongly embraces male-headship and complementarianism. The ultimatum given to me was that I needed to silence my advocating or leave. I was told that my advocating was causing disunity and that being silent about such things would be the way in which I would live peaceably with those in that church. I wasn’t interested in catering to their whims of false peace or disillusioned unity. Unity is a noble goal, but so is separating truth from error. Some things shouldn’t be “agree to disagree”—like gender equality and equal rights between men and women.

True unity isn’t the sound of silencing half of the church and leaving them voiceless. True unity isn’t leaving half of the church out of the decision making process. True unity isn’t dismissing half of the church from positions of authority and leadership. True unity doesn’t diminish the gifts of half of the church. True unity cannot coexist with the oppression of half the church. When I began thinking about ways to accomplish cultivating unity in the church, I realized that true unity will only come when we embrace women as equal leaders in our churches. Only when we remove the idea of patriarchy, and instead see men and women standing side-by-side as complete equals, will we be able to fully achieve true unity.

Jesus abandoned His place of privilege in order to become a servant of the oppressed.

May we do the same.

*This blog was originally a guest post for “Unsilenced,” and was first published on August 22, 2018. Here’s a link to the original post. Check out more while you’re there!*

God Ordained Harm or God Redeemed Harm? A Short Read Concerning Gender Theology.

The thing about complementarian theology is that I have to ask myself why any Christian would believe that such an abusive, toxic, and unjust system is of God? I understand their arguments, but I just can’t wrap my head around believing that God created and upholds a system that hurts His children so badly.

The complementarian idea of man leading woman is rooted in the curse God placed on the earth after the Fall (Gen 3). Why would a group of Christians uphold part of God’s curse when we understand that Christ died to redeem us from the effects of the curse?

The serpent is a representation of Satan. In Gen 3:15a, God says that He will put enmity between the woman and the serpent. Have we ever considered that this is what complementarianism isthe enmity between Satan and the woman? What better way for Satan to get back at women than to limit women in the Church? The worst part is how many Christians are deceived into believing that this theological system is God ordained. I can’t imagine that God would willingly use any method to limit half of His Church.

Gen 3:15b, as God is still speaking to the serpent, is what is known as the “protoevangelium.” It’s the first mention of the gospel. “He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” In other words, Satan’s feeble attempts to limit Christ’s Church will be met with a defeating blow as Jesus redeems this curse on the cross.

This is why egalitarianism is rooted in redemption. Gal 3:28 solidifies this when it says, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (NIV). Or, as the CEV states it, “Faith in Christ Jesus is what makes each of you equal with each other, whether you are a Jew or a Greek, a slave or a free person, a man or a woman.” Christ’s work on the cross brought humanity back to its pre-fall state of equality within humanity.

God did not ordain a harmful system. God redeemed a harmful system.