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How to Stop Saying I’m Sorry To Your Family

Today’s post is a guest post from my good friend, Frank Bealer. Frank is executive director of Leadership Development at The reThink Group (also known as Orange) and the CEO of Phase Family Centers. Before joining Orange, he was family pastor at Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is driven to helping leaders develop to their full potential. Frank and his wife, Jess, have four children.

I have several friends from Canada and whenever we get together I’ve noticed they tend to apologize for everything.

They say sorry even when the fault is clearly not their own. It’s unnecessary if you ask me, but it could explain why our neighbors to the north have a much lower crime rate than we do here in the US.

They say “I’m sorry,” and everyone else feels a release of tension and pressure.

There’s a sense that someone’s taken ownership of the mistake and those two little words make everyone feel better. And that’s a good thing…isn’t it?

If it’s such a good thing, you may think I would suggest we apologize more. While I do feel our society would experience a greater sense of peace if we could learn to own up to our mistakes, wouldn’t it be better to simply avoid pitfalls and missteps altogether, especially as it relates to our family, friends, and loved ones?

What if we could say sorry less because we succeed more?

How Does Sorry Happen?

I couldn’t begin to tackle the multitude of bad decisions you and I have made over the years that left a stain on our reputation.

However, I do believe there is a formula that can help us manage our busy schedules in a way that prioritizes the relationships that matter most.

Too often in ministry we have to apologize to family, friends, and co-workers because we fail to control our schedule. Instead, we allow our calendar to dictate our priorities.

When we lose control over our time, those closest to us suffer. In order for that to change, we must first dissect our schedule.

So how does sorry happen? Well, everything on our calendar falls into one of the following three categories:

  1. Routine—commonplace tasks, chores, or responsibilities that must be completed regularly or at specified intervals; typical or everyday activity
  2. Sporadic—appearing or happening at irregular intervals in time
  3. Unexpected—not expected; unforeseen; surprising

There are plenty of blog posts, books, and apps that can help with the routine.

The unexpected is…well, unexpected. There is little we can do to plan for genuine surprises.

However, I’ve found much can be done in preparation for the sporadic.

Oftentimes we treat the sporadic as if it’s unexpected, the occasional as though it’s a complete shocker. We put the longer-than-expected staff meeting in the same category as the lighting strike that took out the city’s cell phone towers. We are caught unaware every time these irregular instances occur.

What If You Had a Plan?

I believe we can plan for these times. We can prepare those closest to us for these occurrences by adjusting our mindset and embracing a tried-and-true strategy.

What if you could stop saying sorry and start saying, “I’ve got a plan”?

That plan is actually a formula we call When This, Then That. This formula can challenge each of us to consider how to handle the sporadic before the sporadic handles us.

The key to this formula is found in “This” and “That”. When This (the sporadic event), Then That (our planned response to the sporadic).

There’s a lot that goes into creating formulas like this that will help us succeed but shifting the way we think about the sporadic changes everything.

So What Does This Actually Look Like?

So what does this look like, in real life?

Well, exceptions can become incredible opportunities.

Over the years, I had the incredible privilege of interviewing people looking to join the staff at Elevation Church. This required my wife and I to go to dinner with prospective couples. Great for the interview process, but it was challenging to tie up another night away from the kids. We knew that getting out of the office environment to a nice restaurant was the best way to hear what people were thinking and to answer any questions that they may have.

Some seasons involved more interviews than others, but about two years ago it started to get crazy. The church was growing radically and there were so many candidates to meet. This required flexibility and therefore led to a multitude of unplanned exceptions.

I found that when I would call home to tell my kids that I wouldn’t be home because I had an interview, it would be met with massive disappointment but then a sweet little smile saying, “We love you Daddy. It’s okay. I was just really hoping we could play a board game tonight.” My heart would break.

We needed a plan. This is where “When This Then That” comes into play.

The interviews weren’t going to stop. And my kids weren’t going anywhere.

So, we made a shift. When I had an opportunity to do another interview for the church, I would call home to say we have an interview (same as before), but instead of this meaning Mom and Dad wouldn’t be home, it meant an adventure for the kids. We created a new When This Then That solution. WHEN we have an interview, THEN the kids get to eat at the restaurant (at a separate table) with an appetizer and dessert.

“If you have kids, you know this is a really big deal. I don’t know about you but when we take our family to a restaurant, we try to be extremely efficient. We get in. We get out. Before the chaos ensues. We don’t order appetizers. We order our drinks and meal at the exact same time and we rarely order dessert. After all, how can we ask our kids to behave when we give them tons of sugar and then keep them trapped in a booth?

Can you imagine the change this made for our family? Instead of sadness, our phone calls were met with jubilee.

You can see how we were able to turn something that used to be a negative, another ‘I’m sorry’ into something that our whole family gets excited about. In fact, sometimes my kids ask when the next interview is so they can dine out “fancy” again.”

It’s a simple change, but it’s a profound change.

What if you changed everything so exceptions became opportunities?

WANT MORE?

For more on thriving in the tension of ministry, work, and life (and a simple approach to gaining more control over your calendar), check out Frank’s new book, The Myth of Balance. It will help you craft your own formulas and figure out how to quit saying sorry. Just visit MythofBalance.com.

In the meantime, what puts you into a time crunch? What are you doing about?

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3 Comments

  1. Jon Sherwood on June 22, 2017 at 7:57 pm

    Thanks this is great stuff!

  2. Sarah Hall on June 21, 2017 at 7:13 am

    This is great, it is so true that many times I have had to call home have been heartbreaking, but changing that into opportunity is a great way to transform that time into a opportunity. Thanks so much for sharing!

  3. James on June 19, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    Wow! This is one of the most practical ideas I’ve heard in this issue. I’m a PK who is now a Pastor. The reason I am in ministry today is because I always thought being a PK was a privilege. This idea can make one of tge worst things, one of the best things!

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