A less than ideal interaction this week made me consider the importance of a true apology. I realized that even though it is something we work with our toddler on, not every adult really understands the difference between “I am sorry you feel that way” and “I am truly sorry.” I began to think about how thankful I am that between my husband and I, there have been very few I’m-sorry-you-feel-that-way” type “excuse responses” and we usually have pretty sincere apologies.
I wanted to credit back to the place I first learned this, and I thought for sure it was from a book I read while we were engaged called Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. And it might very well actually be from that book, because it is great, but I went back to the book to try to find the section… I can’t! So… maybe it was another book? Well, Love and Respect was still a great read, so if you are looking for a good book recommendation… here ya go. If you find the section in there about apologizing, let me know!
But back to the Honest Apology 🙂
So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Matthew 5:23-25 ESV
We all know when we feel like an apology isn’t sincere, so what can we do to make sure our OWN apologies ARE sincere? Here is a little outline of a True Apology; if one part is missing, the person on the receiving end is likely to be left feeling unsatisfied.
1.“This is what I did (and I am sorry I did it)”
Be specific and own up to the mistake. Don’t make excuses (“I’m sorry, BUT…”). Saying exactly what you did is good, because it forces you to really identity the problem. It’s not just “I’m sorry.” (For what??) But, “I am sorry for speaking to you in an angry tone” or “I am sorry for not following through on what I said I would do” etc.
2. “I was wrong.”
Admitting we are wrong is humbling. Use this phrase often.
3. “This is how I am going to correct it”
I think this part is very often left out. True repentance is defined as turning AWAY from our sin, going the other direction. It could sound like “in the future I will remember not to unload too much information on you when it is already getting late at night” or “next time I will make a point to ask your opinion before going forward in a decision like this.”
[Side Note| What if you don’t know how to fix it? I think you can ask for help here, assuming you HONESTLY have thought through it, and still aren’t sure what to do better. Asking, “Do you know how I can do this better in the future?” or “Can you help me come up with a plan to make sure this doesn’t happen again?” could be helpful if you are stuck. But make sure you are really stuck, not just being pigheaded and not trying to see the solution.
4. “Will you forgive me?”
Asking for forgiveness brings closure. It brings unity. Don’t forget this step. And when you are on the receiving end of the apology, don’t forget to give it freely.
Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.
Colossians 3:13 NLT
I think it is interesting that there are far more verses about forgiving others, than there are about asking for forgiveness. I think God wants to make sure that, EVEN IF THE OTHER PERSON FAILS TO MAKE A SINCERE APPOLOGY… we are still called to forgive. Difficult, but true.