Last week I shared a reconciling conversation that I had with my daughter, Amy. That one conversation has changed the course of our relationship for the last 14 years.
Reflecting on that conversation I have often asked myself, “What are some of the important ingredients for a good apology?” Here are some of the things I try to always include:
- GIVE A GENUINE APOLOGY – A good place to start is to simply apologize, but be careful not to ruin it with excuses. Too often an apology is ruined by shifting the blame off of ourselves and on to the other person. “I’m sorry I lost my temper, but you know I don’t like it when you . . . ” That’s not a genuine apology.
“I’M SORRY” OR “I APOLOGIZE” IS A GOOD WAY TO BEGIN THE CONVERSATION
- ADMIT WHAT YOU’VE DONE WRONG – It is incredibly powerful when we humble ourselves and admit what we have done.
“WHEN I SAID (OR DID) _________, I WAS WRONG.”
- BE WILLING TO TRY TO UNDERSTAND HOW YOUR OFFENSE HAS WOUNDED THE OTHER PERSON – If we take the time to try to see things from the other persons perspective it makes the apology that much more genuine and it also help us to avoid causing such pain in the future.
“I KNOW THAT I HAVE HURT YOU BY WHAT I DID (OR BY WHAT I SAID). HELP ME UNDERSTAND WHAT HAPPENED FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE.”
- AFFIRM ( OR RE-AFFIRM) THE VALUE OF THE RELATIONSHIP – We value each relationship differently, but we should be able to genuinely express that we value the person we are apologizing to. They are a person created in the image of God, and the second greatest commandment challenges us to genuinely love people. I have found it helpful here to address them by their name:
” _______ , I WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT I TRULY VALUE YOU AS A FRIEND (OR LOVE YOU AS MY WIFE ETC), AND I DEEPLY REGRET WHAT I HAVE DONE TO HARM YOU AND TO DAMAGE OUR RELATIONSHIP.”
- ASK FOR FORGIVENESS – As Christians, we know that forgiving one another is an important ingredient to every relationship. At the same time, we all know that it is not easy to forgive, and sometimes it takes time to forgive.
“I KNOW IT MAY TAKE SOME TIME, BUT I HOPE THAT YOU WILL FORGIVE ME.”
- TALK ABOUT MOVING FORWARD IN THE RELATIONSHIP – Each situation is a little bit different. Sometimes it’s good to affirm positive changes that you are committed to making for the future. I am usually hesitant to promise I will never do something again unless I know I can keep that promise. However, I do find it meaningful to express my commitment and maybe even the steps I am taking to change so that this doesn’t just keep happening.
Last week I spent time with my two brothers, my son, and my son in law. We are all scattered in different parts of the US, so it was a great opportunity to reconnect. Part way through our time together, out of nowhere, I remembered a time when I did something that I am pretty sure wounded one of these guys. Yet again, I felt the Holy Spirit prompting me to go and apologize.
HOW ABOUT YOU, IS THERE A RELATIONSHIP THAT YOU HAVE THAT WOULD BENEFIT FROM A GENUINE APOLOGY?