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An Apology

What is an apology? When do we apologize? Why do we apologize?

“Every good apology has three operative elements: acknowledgment, acceptance, and amends"

Saying I’m sorry is a vulnerable place. We have to admit that we are not perfect. We have to disclose that we made mistakes.

Sometimes I’ve raced around my brain desperately looking for some way to justify my actions so that I didn’t have to apologize because it felt too vulnerable. But sometimes, even in a relationship where I wanted to be vulnerable and close to someone, I have defaulted to not apologizing—scared for the rejection it could hold.

If we want a relationship to grow, we—the one who erred—need to own the mistake and the apology, no matter how uncomfortable it feels.

Without the apology, it’s one more brick in the barrier to growing closer in a relationship. We all know people that never say I’m sorry—it just feels too exposed. Alternatively, more worrisome, is that they feel beyond reproach. I know from experience that waiting for an apology can cause a relationship to feel like it is hanging in midair, waiting to get grounded.

Don’t apologize as a way to shut down the conversation and wipe the slate clean. That’s a shortcut that is hurtful to you and the person you wronged/hurt. We fear that some people will use our apology against us—so we keep ourselves safe by not apologizing. The ego plays a large role in preventing us from giving that apology. It can take a toll on how we feel about ourselves.

There is another side of apologies. For instance, I can be very free with my apologies. Saying things like “I’m sorry to bother you” instead of “Do you have a minute to talk?” can be a sign of our sense of self-worth or the habits we developed when we weren’t confident.

Women tend to have more apologies than men, for women, over-apologizing can be just a matter of learned language. But when we hear ourselves apologize for taking up space when someone else bumps into us, or apologize for being late rather than thanking people for waiting for us, or apologize just for saying no when someone crosses our boundaries, this can be a sign of self-worth challenges, we have quite literally talk ourselves into our own low self-worth.

I can offer a sincere apology when I know the mistakes I make are just a part of being human. I truly don’t want to hurt others. I don’t want them to be suffering from my words or actions. I can offer a sincere apology when I forgive myself for not being perfect. I seek to learn from my mistakes and apply insights to my future responses and actions. I refrain from using my mistakes to bring up all my past mistakes and emotionally beat myself up.

A genuine apology is more than a statement. It has to be sincere, vulnerable, and intentional.

  1. Taking responsibility for making a mistake

  2. Acknowledging that we have hurt someone

  3. Validating their feelings

  4. Expressing remorse

  5. Being explicit about our desire to make amends

When I sincerely apologize, I know that I am confident. No one is beyond making mistakes. I know that my spiritual growth depends on my ability to be vulnerable. I continue to learn new ways of communicating that don’t involve over-apologizing for taking up space or being a normal human being. I know that there are pain, challenges, and injustices in the world that I can’t control, and I can be sorry, sad, and discouraged when they happen.

The most important thing you can do is to own your mistakes, own when you hurt some one and be genuine in your apology. Most importantly, forgive when you get an apology. People are human and will make mistakes. Life is short, apologize and forgive.

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