love means being excited about being sorry

  • When you are caught or confronted, what do you feel? Shame?  Exposed?  Fearful?  Defensive?
  • What’s the first thing you want to do? Hide?  Defend?  Counterattack?  Justify?
  • When someone accuses you of some kind of failure – critical words, judgement, thoughtlessness, being mean – are you surprised? Do you live with some unadmitted sense that you could and should live life perfectly, faultlessly?

I absolutely hate being confronted.  I work really hard to do life “right.”  But—surprise, surprise—I am almost always caught off guard by my failures.

I had a dream last week where one of my mentors caught me rolling my eyes.  I awoke with a sense of shame.  When my wife Lynne asks me if I am feeling angry… or sad… or judgmental, my immediate response is to deny it.

Rarely am I curious when confronted.  Rarely is my first response to want to ponder and reflect on my own heart.  Rarely is my concern that I might really be harming someone else.  My knee-jerk reaction is more often defensive.

These are the moments when I want the gospel to be more true for me.  These are the moments when I want to be more concerned for others than for myself.  These are the moments when I want to be less surprised that I might still actually be sinful!  These are the moments when I want to grow and love rather than to hide and defend.

How do you react when confronted?  Are you curious about your motives?  Are you surprised and defensive?  I really don’t think Jesus wants us to be.

Let me explain my pretty simple rationale.

I am not yet perfect.  My sin is still present and working itself out in my life.  There are ways I think I have changed, parts of my heart that are different than they were.  But the longer I walk with Jesus, the more I discover new or deeper parts of me that are not His, that are sinful or self-protective rather than loving.

Theoretically, those parts shouldn’t scare me anymore.  They used to mark me as a person, as someone unkind or thoughtless or selfish, hence unlovable.  But now Jesus invites me to bring those parts of me to Him for His forgiveness, and even His cleansing.  He makes me “white as snow” (whatever that means 😊).

In fact, His love is big enough for me to even be sorry, saddened for how I have hurt others and able to ask for their forgiveness without demeaning myself or becoming less than because of my admission.  Jesus actually loves it when sinful, broken people come to Him for His grace and mercy.  He welcomes us, welcomes me.

Yet my response to those moments of exposure is to hide, to deny, to minimize rather than to run to Jesus.

So sometimes, I wonder if I really believe Him?  Do I really trust His love and mercy?  Do I—down deep—trust in this counter-intuitive life that faces sin in a way that leads to reconciliation and a changed and changing heart?

Honestly, sometimes I do.  Sometimes I don’t get defensive.  Sometimes I feel the freedom to want to see how I hurt someone else.  Sometimes I really want to be saddened by those parts of my heart that hurt others and God.  Sometimes I really do believe more in the love God demonstrated on the cross than my natural reaction to rely on my own defense.

What about you?  Do you believe in Him enough to not be defensive but curious?  Do you believe in Him enough to want to see your failures if they are there?  To want to bring them to Jesus for His forgiveness and to say you are genuinely sorry to those whom you have hurt?

How big is your Jesus?  I sure need mine to be bigger.




Palmer TricePalmer Trice is an ordained Presbyterian minister.  He is married to Lynne, has three children and has been in Charlotte since 1979. In his spare time, Palmer enjoys golf, tennis, walking and reading.

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