“A few things are more powerful than common sense, wisdom and the strength to admit when you’ve made a mistake and to set things right”. – Dr. Spencer Johnson, MD
Whether we have mistreated others or have been wronged by others, it is human nature to cry out for restitution. All human relationships will at some point require an apology regardless of the nature of the relationship in which we find ourselves. That could be a marriage, a working relationship, siblings, a dating relationship, or with friendships. A genuine apology makes resolution possible. Without an apology, people will harbor anger and resentment, demanding some sort of justice.
When you apologize, you are accepting responsibility for your actions, and seeking to make amends with those who have offended you. A genuine apology will open the door to forgiveness and reconciliation. This is what the power of an apology will do – it breaks down those walls that have been holding people back from having fulfilling relationships with one another.
When you refuse to apologize, you build a barrier in the relationship with those who have offended you. That barrier will remain up and the fabric of relationship will deteriorate. Great relationships are a result of a willingness to apologize, to forgive, and to reconcile. Without those elements, relationships will remain cold, superficial, and distant.
In healthy families, children are taught to apologize for their wrong behavior towards their sibling(s) or parents. However, many children grow up in dysfunctional environments and become emotionally wounded or bitter and never learn the art of apologizing. They carry this inability to apologize into adulthood, full of stubbornness and unwillingness to give in.
Understanding the power of a genuine apology can restore broken relationships and enrich your life with your loved ones. After some extensive research on the subject of apology, Dr. Gary Chapman shares in his newest book, The Five Languages of Apology,
“When it comes to apologizing, people indeed speak a different language…sincere apologies may not always be received as sincere, and why forgiveness and reconciliation are not always forthcoming.”
The Five Languages of Apology
1. Expressing Regret: This can be using words such as, “I am Sorry.” When you use these words to express sorrow, it expresses your own guilt, shame, and pain for your actions that have hurt others. Doing this is a necessary ingredient to a good relationship. For some people, “sorry” is the cure-all while it will not work for others. You must be specific when apologizing, and you must leave out the “BUT”. Starting an apology with, “I am sorry, but”… will not work to restore the relationship. When you do this, it goes from being an apology to an attack because you are shifting the blame. An attack will only lead to more strife, not to reconciliation.
2. Accepting Responsibility: This is difficult for most people. Admitting wrong is oftentimes misconstrued as a weakness by others. According to Dr. Chapman psychologists have concluded that if a child is humiliated and condemned for wrong doing, it is linked to their sense of self-worth. The child will then grow up with an emotional link between their self-worth and wrong behavior, determining that confessing their faults is bad behavior. Paul Meyer, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Golden Soul, says, “One of the most important success factors is the willingness to admit that you were wrong”. We would all be more successful today if we adopted this principal.
Mature adults learn to accept accountability for wrong behavior. Immature adults tend to downplay or rationalize their wrong actions. They blame others and will not admit to doing anything wrong.
3. Making Restitution: This means to make things right. It is such an awful feeling to go through life knowing that you have hurt or offended someone, or that someone has hurt or offended you. You want restitution. The proof of a sincere apology is having an eagerness to do something to resolve the pain that you have inflicted on someone.
“Sorry” may not be enough of an apology for some people. Sometimes, people will only be satisfied with restitution, a repayment for an offense. For example, if a loved one was physically violated, hearing the offender say “I am sorry” may not be enough. Seeing that person in prison is the recompense that will allow them to be happy and be able to move on.
4. Genuine Repentance: Repentance means to turn around, to change one’s mind. Don’t make the same mistake over and over. When a mistake or an offense is repeated consistently, there is no genuine repentance in practice. If someone in the relationship has hurt you emotionally or physically over and over; simply saying “Sorry” will not cut it. You need to know that this person has changed and that they will stop hurting you. Sincere repentance starts with the heart before it can be an action.
5. Forgiveness: Forgiving someone is to exonerate or pardon them from the wrong they have caused you. This is the hardest part for the majority of people to do. True forgiveness is the ability to forgive a person no matter how horrible the offense you have suffered. Forgiveness starts with a request to be forgiven. By requesting forgiveness, it shows that you want the relationship fully restored. An apology is an attempt to bring down barriers that have kept the relationship distant.
The person asking for forgiveness realizes that have caused someone to be offended. People who are controlling have difficulty asking for forgiveness. This is because if they do, they will feel as though they are losing power.
The power of apology will restore broken relationships and produce great, meaningful life-long friendships, marriages, and parent-child relationships. It will also impact day to day encounters with people outside of your circle. Genuine apologies will soften even the toughest and most stubborn hearts. A soft answer turns away wrath. (Proverbs 15:1, KJV)
The Five Languages of Apology; Dr. Gary Chapman