I have a friend who insists, “An apology is generally nothing more than a way to make an offender feel better!’ In 21st Century America that may be true more often than not. But a genuine apology can serve a useful purpose: it’s the first step in resolving a conflict and correcting a destructive habit. Even so, it’s only a baby step- not a long jump!
If you need to repent and you’re trying to begin a relationship repair, there are simple principles to keep in mind. For instance, don’t let any of these Apology Assassins creep into your statement of regret:
1. A genuine apology cannot be conditional. Never tell someone you love, “I’m sorry if I offended you.” If someone just told you he’s offended, you’re questioning his sincerity. Caring people want to know for sure if they’ve offended another human being, and they are intentional about finding out. So when you add an “if” to your statement of regret, you’re suggesting that either your friend is dishonest or you are uncaring. Don’t do it.
2. Real apologies don’t offer excuses. When you add an excuse to your apology, “I’m so sorry but I was just trying to be helpful,” you minimize your guilt. When a guy hurts someone he loves, he wants to minimize the victim’s pain and sorrow- not his own culpability. Just say “I’m so sorry I behaved so thoughtlessly and hurt you.”
3. A heartfelt apology doesn’t blame the victim. I just hate it when I hear people say, “I’m so sorry you misunderstood.” Statements like that suggest that someone got hurt only because he wasn’t thinking clearly or had a error of judgment. When you truly regret what you’ve done, you focus on your offensive behavior, not the victim’s intellect or abilities.
4. An apology cannot pass the blame. Don’t ever try, “It’s not really my fault, but I’m sorry for my role in this.” Even if other people are to blame for 75% of the injury, you are 100% responsible for your 25%. Just tell the one you’ve hurt, “I completely understand why you are upset. I am so very sorry for letting this happen.”
5. True sorrow cannot be sarcastic. You can interject, “Okay! I’m sorry! Enough already!” But it won’t help. Sarcasm and forced humor are inappropriate when you have injured someone you love. One part of repentance is the willingness to sit quietly and allow the injured party to share her pain. Say “Let’s sit down and start over. Tell me what I’ve done, because I would never want to hurt you. I’m truly sorry.”
Lift up the Cross!