It is hard to admit when we’re wrong. Many of us struggle even to admit it to ourselves, let alone out loud to another person. And to admit you are wrong, and then go the next step to apologize and ask for forgiveness? This is a hard – but very necessary – part of life.
Why apologies matter
An apology fulfills several purposes: acknowledging wrongdoing, breaking down walls of defensiveness or pride, and restoring right relationship.
Telling someone out loud that you’ve done something wrong or have hurt them will sting your pride, and this is a good thing! Acknowledgement helps to keep us realistic about who we are and our need for forgiveness from a Savior.
Breaking Down Walls
The act of telling another person when you’ve done something wrong also helps to break down the walls between you and the other person. Humility softens the heart, and makes it easier for the other person to re-engage in healthy dialogue with you. It is harder to be defensive when someone is apologizing to you, and harder to cling to pride when you recognize something was not done well.
We cannot control if the other person will accept our apology, and it may take time for a relationship to heal and grow again. But apologies help to set us on that path. By acknowledging a hurt to the relationship, and initiating honest dialogue about that hurt, people are able to move past emotional response and into relationship again. At a bare minimum, apology begins to restore your relationship with the One to whom we are ultimately responsible: God Himself.
How to Apologize
There are entire books written about forgiveness and apologies, but three simple tips may help to get things started:
- Focus on what you did and not what the other person did. It is not an apology to say “I’m sorry that you…”
- Try to make restitution wherever possible. This may mean correcting a wrong, like returning a stolen item to a friend, or offering your help in a different way that is meaningful to the other person.
- Your body language should match your words. An apology while laughing is not going to be taken seriously. An apology mumbled while you’re slouching in a chair is not going to be viewed as legitimate. Take the moment seriously, and express that with your tone of voice, emotions, body language, and then with your words.