Humble Pie and I Scream

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M_Bronwyn2

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.”

Deep sigh.

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.

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Bronwyn Lea
Bronwyn Lea is a South-African born writer-mama, raising little people in California and raising eyebrows at bronlea.com. Fueled by grace, caffeine and laughter, she writes about the holy and hilarious in life, faith and family. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
Bronwyn Lea
Bronwyn Lea

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  • Erin Wilson

    This is so beautiful. And you’re right, it is so important to go back and to make peace wherever we are able. Relationships can’t depend on never hurting each other…they have to depend on us doing the hard work of reconciliation.

    • You are so right… and it IS hard work, but as with so many things – so worth it!

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  • Bev Murrill

    No matter how tough it is, it’s right. And when it’s right to do, it builds something into you which wasn’t there before… and it’s a good thing. And you will see the results of it when you’re 50, more than now, but that’s ok, just keep doing it… transparency is a great attribute.

    • Thanks, Bev. Who would have thought a steady diet of pie would be good in the long run? 🙂

  • Donna-Jean Brown

    Oh man, have I been there, Bronwyn. It’s excruciating to have a quick tongue but it sure has made me practiced at apologizing. I have a good few memories for my “most embarrassing moment” confessions – ugh. Well done for recognizing your mistake and for confession and for writing it our for the rest of us mixed-motive sinners. Humble pie is very nutritious for Christ followers.

    • Maybe humble pie is like Kale: not my favorite taste, but really, really good for me?

  • OH, this is so vulnerable and humble. Thank you for letting us cringe along with you, and let us also join you in prayer that we will guard our mouths as well as our motives because we are in the process of being changed.

    • Thank you Michele. It is such a comfort to not cringe alone. Confession is a powerful thing… for so many reasons.

  • Caryn

    ” 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. “. What a wonderful description! Such a wonderful article – so honest. I loved it- my carry-on baggage – fabulous!

    • Thank you. I wish I travelled lighter, but I’m learning 🙂

  • Amy

    Loved hearing your honesty and turmoil over something that we all have done at some point or another and probably wouldn’t have thought twice about. So beautiful that you took this as an opportunity to lean into the uncomfortable space of wrestling with it rather than pushing it aside, as I’ve done so often. Thank you for sharing. It’s a great moment of teaching for me.

    • Thanks, Amy. I think the Holy Spirit’s goading gets more credit here than I do for making that apology happen 🙂 He is painfully, wonderfully persistent that way.

  • O, Bronwyn. I felt my cheeks flush with heat as I read this. Been there, done that friend. Bravo for leaning into the discomfort and apologizing. Thank you for the wonderful reminder to always seek reconciliation even when our jagged humanity causes pain.

    Love your honest writing and transparency!

    xxoxo,
    T

    • Thanks, Teen. Grateful to know I’m not alone in owning up to those horrid, but so instructive, moments.

  • Sarah Joslyn

    Bronwyn, this is a hard post to read because I so feel it. Thank you for writing this and being raw and honest with us.

    P.S. I loved making the graphic for this post. Learned a new tool in Illustrator for this one. 🙂

    • Your graphics are SO wonderful. And I love that you served a BIG piece of pie… that’s exactly right.

    • Donna-Jean Brown

      Sarah, I’m glad for a chance to thank you for your extraordinary graphics – you add so much to the delightful welcome I sense whenever I open a page.

      • Sarah Joslyn

        Wow. Thank you! That made my day.

    • Sarah, that graphic. So good!

  • HBurns

    Bronwyn, thanks for sharing so vulnerably as it is a gift to all of us. I imagine we have all done this in some way (I know I have) and you have given us wisdom in knowing how to free ourselves of the shame or guilt of it…’But God is calling me to different and daring responses: to the dangerous acts of confession and seeking forgiveness’. This is powerful. Thanks again. Helen xo

    • I love the idea that just like I offer my kids something to eat when they are close to losing it, my heavenly Father offers us something to eat (pie, in this case :-), because it is just what we need to feel better. Thanks for your kind words.

  • Your vulnerability is a breath of fresh air, Bronwyn. xo

    • Thanks, Michaela. You are such a gracious and encouraging cheerleader.

  • Thanks for telling us this story, Bronwyn. I’ve been there too. These experiences are so painful, but they teach us so much — and they help other people too if we share them with vulnerability, as you’ve done here. I appreciate that you were sensitive to the Spirit’s leading and did the right thing in contacting the other woman. I’m sure she appreciated it too.

    • Thanks, Jeannie. As uncomfortable as it felt at the time, I’m glad I did too…

  • Nicole A. Joshua

    I could so relate to this post Bronwyn. I have so often felt that I only open my mouth to swap feet (*sigh*). Thank you for being SO honest and vulnerable. Beautiful piece.

    • I’m a foot-swapper too! I have often thought of that passage in Isaiah 6 when he confesses: “I am a man of unclean lips!”

  • This right here is the Gospel. Your honesty is stunning, inspiring and refreshing. I can absolutely relate to the “wanting to do right, but doing wrong instead”. And the whole thing about pride getting in the way? *Swallows and blushes* Yep. A standing ovation for you. Will be rereading this. Truly appreciate your openness here. Bravo! Bravo.

    • Thank you, Ganise. God is relentlessly making me deal with the nasty things that wanting-to-be-liked makes me do. IT’s a painful pruning, indeed.

  • Katie Savage

    This reminds me of the story in Amy Poehler’s “Yes Please” about the one time she apologized for an SNL skit. Vulnerability and humility can turn a situation completely, though, and I hope that you do eventually find that a genuine friendship springs up.

    • I was really struck by that part of Yes Please, too. The letter from the young woman in question was truly remarkable and redemptive – thanks for the reminder!

  • Vickie Schlegel

    Had this same type of trouble this week. At a birthday dinner. With my son’s darling fiancé. And I am OLD! Just when I think I’m better, I’m not, and I steam roll some poor soul. In my case it seems like a choice between Saying the Wrong Thing or Saying Nothing At All. Yours truly, Silence is Golden

    • Oh Vickie, I am absolutely sure that I will have to beg my children’s forgiveness in the years to come for offering unsolicited advice or opinions. Best I practice those apologies now 🙂

  • I know these feelings all too well, Bronwyn. Thanks for putting words to them and reminding me of the power of apologies and asking for forgiveness. Lovely post.

    • Thanks, Sarah! James was right when he talked about the difficulty of taming the tongue. It is a wild fire!

  • Jenna Makus

    I’ll have humble pie with you any day, friend. Loved the transparency and vulnerability of this post.

    • As long as we can drink tea, too. It’s a date.

  • pastordt

    Beautifully written, Bronwyn. And we ALL say things we wish we could slurp right back up. Good on you for apologizing. And good on her for staying in relationship.

    • Thanks, Diana. Maybe next time I go to a group meeting I should take some duck tape: as my sister wisely reminded me – “a closed mouth gathers no foot!”

  • Megan Gahan

    Bronwyn, this is amazing. We have ALL been there, but few of us are brave enough to ask for forgiveness, let alone write out the awkwardness and pain we feel in those moments. Thank you for allowing all of our hearts to exhale today. And beautifully written to boot 😉 Wonderful work my dear!

    • I wonder why it is so hard for us to ask for forgiveness, when I know that being on the receiving end of an apology is such a grace-filled, relationship-enriching thing? Oh, so much growth is needed in this area!

  • Oh man – I know this so well. You describe so well that struggle of admitting to someone else that we did wrong, even when we KNOW we did wrong. Love this.

    • I confess I am not great at confession 🙂 But God is teaching me, teaching us, that he is faithful to forgive and work when we are better at confessing.

  • michaboyett

    This is lovely, Bronwyn. And I admire you so much for making things right. I love that idea: “If it’s a good thing to do, do it anyway.” Yes. So many times the Holy Spirit has reminded me of that very thing: “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them,” from James. Love that barometer.

    • That is a fantastic barometer from James: ever wise and practical. Thank you for your kindness.

  • Johanna

    Thank you so much for sharing this, Bronwyn. I can definitely relate. Something I’m learning is that I can always reopen conversations if I’m not satisfied with the way they ended. I had my own piece of humble pie recently when I apologized for something I said a decade ago. In a way it felt silly to drag things up after so long, but it lifted such a huge weight from me.

    • A decade ago! GOOD FOR YOU! It must have felt so freeing to release that!

  • Suzanne Burden

    “To accept responsibility and to face the blood.” This must be where true courage begins: when God sensitizes us to how our words matter to the one across from us, and we own that they do, and we make the effort to accept our own fallibility and frailty in the mess. Please keep writing this honest. You give me more courage to own my words…however they come out.