What is an apology? What does an apology mean to you?
The definition of an apology is: a regretful acknowledgment of an offense or failure. To me, an apology means that a person understood their actions negatively impacted me. It means they acknowledge what their actions meant to me and will try their best to not repeat such actions in the future.
My husband cannot apologize. All of his apologies begin, I’m sorry, but… I call this his faux-apology. It communicates that he is aware I am offended, but he doesn’t regret his actions or feels he is still right in some way, shape or form. In our twenty-three years of marriage, his faux-apologies are probably our biggest issue. Well, it’s my biggest issue. I’m sure he has his own issues with me. Every fight and disagreement becomes a more significant issue the moment he says, I’m sorry, but… He might as well be saying I’m sorry, but you are wrong, I’m right, now get over it! Of course, he would never say that, but his faux-apology does. In our twenty-three years of marriage, we have discussed his faux-apologies and my need for him not to apologize this way. He does understand my stance on it, and he does try hard, but…
Our sons take after their father, a lot. We often joke that I didn’t contribute much genetically to them. They also inherited from their father his faux-apology. It’s as if it is ingrained in the men in my life to not be able to take blame. To always have some kind of excuse or reason for their actions. My oldest has been married just shy of three years, and already this is his wife’s biggest complaint. I tell her welcome to the club, sister, at least I’m no longer alone in my frustrations! As much as I have tried to get my husband to learn to apologize better, I’m also always trying to teach my sons.
My advice to them?
How does one apologize sincerely?
You must have intention. You must have the intention actually to want to give a heartfelt and sincere apology. You must realize you hurt the person you owe an apology to. Let them know you value their feelings. Let them know you wish you could take back the offense.
Never use the words “if’ or “but” in an apology. Using “if” implies you don’t understand what you did to hurt them. It invalidates what you did to hurt them. It invalidates their feelings and suggests they might not actually be hurt. Using “but” implies you have validated reasons for doing what you did. It shows you feel you are correct in your actions and are only apologizing to get the other person to move on.
If the argument was serious enough and it might be hard for the other person to forgive, let hem know you want to right the situation. Tell them how you plan to do that. If you are unsure how to right the situation, ask them what you need or can do to help make things better. Show them you want the relationship to work and want to make things better.
Let them know you will try your best not to repeat the offense in the future. We all know that in general humans are not perfect. We make mistakes over and over. We often repeat our mistakes. Don’t promise you won’t repeat this offense if there is a high possibility of you repeating it. Be honest. Let the person know you know you might do it again; however, you are willing to try your best not to.
Ask for forgiveness. Let the person know you want their forgiveness for what you did to hurt them. Let them know you understand they might need time to forgive, but you are willing to wait. This is my husband’s second biggest fault, he expects me to forgive immediately. I don’t complain about every little thing. I bottle it up, let it build and then explode. It takes time for my anger to grow and fester; it takes just as much time to let forgiveness grow. People need to know their forgiveness is just as important to you as they are.
Fixing a relationship or overcoming a fight is not just the responsibility of the one who needs to apologize! You must be willing to forgive. If it is going to take your time, be honest and ask for that time. However, remember God grants His grace to you for everything you do. Who are you, to not grant grace to others? Forgiveness can be hard, it could be like swallowing a stone. But when done, it could be the most freeing feeling you could ever feel. A weight lifted off your shoulders.
I’m not a perfect person by any means. I have my own faults I have to work on. I’m sorry about that, but…
I do have the grace of God.