As soon as the words escaped my lips, I knew they were wrong.
I knew it, and she knew it. Every face in that little room knew it. I felt the blush creep into my cheeks and bit my tongue as my mind wrestled with what to do next: Apologize? Explain?
But we were in a small room and the conversation was being recorded. I had already spoken out of turn once and feared aggravating the situation by making a bigger deal of it. The moment passed and conversation went on. When I sought a moment at the end of the evening to catch her eye and make it right, she was nowhere to be found.
I drove home in silence. Stewing.
I remember once asking a mentor how I could know if I should do something, given that my motives were so often mixed. I wanted to do good, but so often found selfish desires were laced into even my best efforts. “Our motives are never really pure,” he had said. “If it’s a good thing to do, do it anyway. Surrender the rest of the bad stuff to God.”
I recounted the evening in my head: visualizing faces, hearing voices. I had gone to learn and to listen, to encourage and to bless. I was excited about the conversation and the people who would be there: women I admired and respected and wanted to know better. However, the niggling truth was also that I wanted to be admired and respected by them. I’d gone with good motives, but my approval-seeking self had packed itself into the carry-on baggage for the trip. A mixed bag, in more ways than one.
Like an unwelcome jack-in-the-box, my approval-seeking self had interrupted a gracious young woman as she spoke. My words were meant to be a blend of sympathetic and funny, but they were jarring and ill-timed. I winced. Not only for the hurt I caused her, but also because I had done it in front of the exact group whose favour I was hoping for.
Sadly, this is not the first time my tongue has shamed me and hurt others. My life story has a long record of things said in anger, in defiance, in self-justification and in wounded pride. To say such things and let them be is a risky thing: cutting words leave open relational wounds. Too often, I have walked away without addressing, redressing and dressing the wounds my words have caused.
But God is calling me to different and daring responses: to the dangerous acts of confession and seeking forgiveness. He’s calling me to live brave and vulnerable; to accept responsibility and face the blood.
It took me two weeks. Two weeks to own up that it did matter and I needed to say something. Two weeks to convince myself I shouldn’t just let it slide. Two weeks to find her address and send her an email. “Hi, and I’m sorry,” I wrote. “We met two weeks ago at the discussion evening at Laura’s.”
Dear God, I’ll have one serving of Humble Pie with a scoop of I Scream, please.
I kept writing. “I made that Super Unhelpful comment and I know it was very hurtful and must have been so discouraging. I wish I could take it back, but I can’t, so the best I can do is offer my deepest apologies. I thought you were so warm and brave and lovely. Please forgive me.”
I clicked send and the email whooshed its way into cyber space. I thought of beloved Mr. Darcy’s words, that his “good opinion, once lost, is lost forever,” and how I could not change how all those women saw me. But I could make restitution with the one I had hurt, and that was what mattered. I breathed slower. Deeper. Lighter.
As it turns out, humble pie is a deeply nutritious dish. These are the years for admitting my mistakes, of asking for forgiveness, and of finding Grace in the most surprising places. She emailed me back. All was forgiven.
Perhaps the real me, often in danger of Saying the Wrong Thing, has a real shot at being in a genuine friendship with her. After all, sharing a dessert is not a bad way to begin a true friendship, even if it is a piece of humble pie.