Three of the most powerful words that can be uttered in any relationship with another human being are “I am sorry.” Saying those three words with sincerity and authentic regret is what gives meaning and weight to the words themselves. Pope Francis himself has pointed to the importance of asking forgiveness in marriage, along with saying “please” and “thank you.” We are all human and we all fail from time to time – it is the effect of original sin on our soul.
When we sin, the effects of it are felt most often and most deeply with those with whom we are closest.
In marriage, when one spouse sins, the other spouse suffers the effect of that sin right along with their beloved, because two become one. In order for the sin to not take root in the marriage, it must be dealt with appropriately and in a timely manner.
I have discovered in my own life that the closer I am to Christ, the more I am in tune with my shortcomings and what I need to actively work on in my life to be the best version of myself for my husband and ultimately for God. When I look at myself in a mirror, the closer I am to the mirror, the more enhanced my imperfections become. In the same way, the closer I come to Christ, the more enhanced and visible my human imperfections become.
As you grow in knowledge of self through unity with Christ, you become whole and wholeness leads to holiness.
The good news is that when you know yourself, you are aware of your shortcomings and you can actively work on them. This makes it easier to say an act of contrition to another person when you sin against them. As you work on your sins one by one, the ability to say “I am sorry” with regret when a sin is committed becomes more natural to do because your heart is in a constant state of transformation – always seeking good to dwell within it.
In marriage, when your spouse sees you taking an active approach to growing in holiness and working on your sinful nature, then there is more compassion for the times that sin enters into the marriage.
The three powerful words “I am sorry,” when said with sincerity, have the power to transform your marriage.
Sincerity comes from a deep desire to do what is right despite how pride might try to pull you in another direction. St. Vincent de Paul said, “You must ask God to give you power to fight against the sin of pride which is your greatest enemy – the root of all that is evil, and the failure of all that is good. For God resists the proud.”
I have witnessed in my own marriage at times how, as St. Vincent de Paul says, pride can be “the failure of all that is good.” Have you ever done something nice for your spouse only to have it completely disregarded and unrecognized? Perhaps the cause for this display of emotions stems from the failure to have said you are sorry with true regret for the last sin you committed against them. Hurt that goes unvalidated by the person who inflicted it has the potential to temporarily close the heart up, rendering it unable to absorb the good being offered. To re-open the heart so the good you do is “not a failure” and can be absorbed, take time to reflect on the hurt and pain you have caused your spouse through your sin and validate their feelings through admitting your sin with real regret.
Take advantage of the grace that comes from the Sacrament of Confession. St. Isidore of Seville said, “Confession heals, confession justifies, confession grants pardon of sin. All hope consists in confession.” If you ever begin to feel hopeless in your marriage, remember that “all hope consists in confession,” meaning that true remission of sins gives you a clean slate to start over and heal the hurt so love can be re-discovered in the light of Christ.
At the end of each day, do an examination of conscience. If you deem it necessary after taking a clear snapshot of your actions that day, specify the sins you have committed and say to your spouse with genuine love, “I am sorry, sincerely.” Then kiss them goodnight.
*Published on the For Your Marriage Section of the USCCB Website