It’s Hard for Me to Say I’m Sorry
Apologize. David Petreaus did it. Tiger Woods did it. Justin Bieber did it. We’ve had to do it ourselves, and it’s hard. Some apologies are well done, and some are a “sorry” sorry.
What is the correct way to apologize? Mary Kassian in her book Conversation Peace suggests the following:
- Identify what we have done wrong. Be specific. Perhaps it was a critical word, a poor attitude or a harsh tone?
- Include an admission of guilt. “I was wrong.” In doing this we accept responsibility for own actions.
- Ask for forgiveness. The tone of the apology should convey genuine grief. This should include a promise to not repeat the action or work towards not making the same mistake again.
Some apologies are counterfeit. Evading responsibility or blaming others is not a proper apology. Counterfeit apologies do little to mend relationships and resolve conflict. It some cases, they add fuel to the fire. No apology is better than a fake one. Don’t say you’re sorry if you don’t mean it. Kassian notes that counterfeit apologies fall into 3 categories:
- Deny that the offense occurred. This attempt at apologizing implies the other person is wrong or misunderstood us. “I’m sorry you took it that way.”
- Excuse the behavior. This type of apology tries to make an excuse in order to justify our own behavior. “I’m sorry, but…”
- Attack the other person. In this approach we blame the other person or make their offense worse than ours. “I’m sorry but you made me do it!”
Communication experts tell us that only 7 percent of communication is verbal. Body language and facial expressions contribute 55 percent, and tone contributes 38 percent of our message. An apology with crossed arms and lack of eye contact will not be well received. An apology should be a sincere attempt to express heartfelt feelings of regret and take responsibility for our actions.
Although the word “apology” is not in the Bible, the concept is. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Proverbs says 28:13 says, “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Broken relationships hinder our relationship with God and grieve God’s Spirit.”
Is there an apology you need to make? Is there a relationship in your life that needs repair? Your spouse? Your child? Your parent? A friend or co-worker? Take the initiative, do it right away and make it a face-to-face apology. This will open the door to diffused anger, open communication, and healing. As Christians, let’s set a good example and apologize well.