Updated: Jun 16
Written May 13, 2019
Updated June 16, 2020. See below article.
Apologies aren't really a fun topic in the self-development arena. These days it feels like we're all in more of an season to stand our ground on anything, rather than humble ourselves to rectify a situation or reconcile a relationship.
I am a full proponent of standing up for one's rights, opinions, feelings about anything really. But I do feel this "right" is also the culprit of creating a huge gulf in our relationships, an obstacle to any genuine (and long-lasting) connectedness. We may be fully strong and standing tall in our right-ness over here, but we end up over here...alone.
But if you're into authentic and long-lasting relationships, an apology, a true apology, requires a deep level of self-awareness, humility, and brute strength to be done effectively. A sincere apology can be effective in rectifying a situation and a relationship, whether from the most egregious of offenses, or the seemingly insignificant ones.
So here's a quiz:
Do your apologies have any of the following words in it?
Answer: If you answered yes to either of the following, and I'm sorry if this offends you, my friend, but that's a fail at an apology. See? You can tell from my answer above that I'm not really sorry! :-) If your apologies have either of the two following words in it, you're doing it all wrong!
Here's how this one usually sounds. "I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings". Or worse..."I'm sorry if you got your feelings hurt." The first one puts the onus on the offended to speak up; to do the hard thing of acknowledging they were hurt at all. And it implies that my actions might not be as offensive to some other person stronger than you! That second one, just yuck. That completely projects the responsibility of offense to the one you think you're apologizing to.
Maybe I should have covered this first, but the whole point to an apology is to take responsibility and to be accountable for our own actions. Using the word "if", just ishes an apology.
Some say there are reasons to explain, but in an apology?
Any statement that follows "but" is an attempt to give the reasons for our actions. Of course, this would be in hopes to assuage any unnecessary pain if the other person understood where we were coming from. BUT it becomes an effort to explain why the person should not be hurt; again putting responsibility on them and deflecting it from ourselves.
Maybe understanding more facts would soften a situation. In this case, I suggest leading with that information (or better to ask the person if they're open to hearing it), then follow with an apology for your part, and your part only. "I'm sorry that I hurt your feelings."
Want a double-dog challenge in personal and spiritual growth and character development? Don't acknowledge your side at all. Try not to excuse, explain, offer, or project anything but simply own something you did or said that was considered hurtful. Own it for it's own merits (or lack of them). whooo that's hard!
The end cap to any effective and successful apology is to rectify the behavior. This shows a sincere desire to restore the relationship (and your reputation), and repair any damage done.
In this, you do offer freedom to the other person, and space for their feelings. And more likely, you will find they have much more space for grace for you.
I'm a fan of "Stranger Things" on Netflix and I love watching the friendship of the three boys. It's so honest and without alot of the defenses we put up as adults. Beautiful friendship moments could get lost in all the suspense and funny, but I loved this interaction where Dustin explains to Mike the "rule of law"; that is, to apologize to his friend, Lucas and why.
...an equally poignant lesson is how Lucas accepts the apology without being a big jerk about it, and making Mike feel even worse. That's a blog for another day.
Updated June 16, 2020:
In the midst of social and racial upheaval, unrest, and enlightenment, New Orleans Saints quarterback, Drew Brees, offered an apology to the black community, and teammates, friends, and fans, for a comment he made that was received with much offense and deep hurt. This post is not to examine the meaning of his comment or the side of the offenses. It is to acknowledge the apology; which you can see on his Instagram post here. And his video here
You'll see no ifs, or buts, or trying to explain his side (which is more trying to explain away any one else's right to their feelings of hurt or upset).
And as I mentioned briefly above, there are obviously various responses to an apology. And depending on if one questions the genuineness of the remorse, receives it wholeheartedly, or if one chooses to remain in offense, can determine if the relationship will be able to shift into healing. Or not.