Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I'm Sorry

Why is it so hard to say, “I’m sorry?”

Why are others sometimes resistant to accepting my apology?

Is it them?

Is it me?

I used to be queen of the flippant, “Sorry!”

How about the belligerent “Ok, so I’m sorry. Now are you happy?!”

Then there’s the sarcastic, “I’m sorry already!”

The annoyed, “I said I’m sorry. What more do you want?”

The demanding, “How many times do I have to say I’m sorry?”

Or how about, “Once again, I’ll be the one to apologize!”

I used to get hung up on being right, on winning the argument. And I sure wasn’t going to apologize if I did not do anything wrong (in my way of thinking), or, if I was not the one that started it in the first place. For example, "I only said that hurtful thing to you because of what you said to me." The "You started it so you need to apologize to me" line of reasoning.

Many years ago, I realized that I had no clue how to apologize, because my apologies never seemed to help the situation. Here I was, patting myself on the back for saying, “Sorry!”, while at the same time, my words, my tone, and even my body language were sending another message.

Who is supposed to apologize, anyway? The one who started it? The one who acted the worst? I used to think so, but who is going to make that call? Honestly, I no longer think the answers to those questions are important. I have discovered that there is usually something for which I need to apologize, whether I started it or not.

Think of an apology as salve. Let’s say your body is burned and you need some type of medical attention, fast. You want salve, slathered on, coating your burn, going deep into the wound. Then, and only then, will you relax as you feel it begin to do its work. It numbs the pain. Oh, you still have the wound. You still remember the pain. You may even feel vulnerable, fearing that the pain will return. It will take time to heal completely, but you can deal with it because of the salve.

I think for the apology salve to work, I also need to act fast. Here are some things I have come to believe are important when I apologize.

1. I think of apologizing as an event that deserves my undivided attention. I want to send the message that what is about to happen is important. It will mean turning the TV off or stepping away from loading the dishwasher.

2. I will use my loved one’s name. Who doesn’t love the sound of their own name?

3. I will look my loved one in the eye. The eyes are the window to the soul. It is my loved one’s soul I have wounded. It needs the salve.

4. I will gently touch my loved one as I speak. I will be sensitive to this because he may be so hurt he will not welcome my touch. If that is the case, I will try touch later when the salve has had time to take effect.

5. I will use my soothing voice, which to a loved one is a salve of its own.

6. I will say, “I’m sorry” in descriptive terms. For example, “Loved one, I’ve been thinking about it, and I realize that I owe you an apology. I hurt you when I (fill in the blank with specifics). I love you and I am deeply sorry. " Here the salve is going directly to the wound.

7. I will give my loved one time alone, time to heal. I will accept that I cannot regulate how much time that will take.

8. I will pray for my loved one’s healing and for the relationship to heal.

9. I will realize that my loved one may feel vulnerable, fearing that the pain will return.

10. I will take care to give my loved one and our relationship extra care and attention, just as I would if he were hurt physically.

I think Peter has the right idea.

Finally, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil for evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”

I Peter 3:8-9


Anonymous said...

This is really inspiring! I learned a lot about the way I apologize in my first fight with Danny after our wedding. I wanted the fight to be over with, so I thought I would be the "mature one" and apologize first. I fully expected that my apology would make him see how he was really at fault. When he accepted my apology and didn't apologize back, I had a choice to get madder or let it go. When I let it go I realized that I REALLY WAS the one at fault. My apology started out as only half-sincere, but by the end of our talk I was sincerely repentant of how I had acted. Just getting out the words made me realize how much he did deserve an apology.

Thanks for your post! Next time I fight with my husband I'll run to my computer to look up your 10 steps before making a half-hearted weenie apology.

Love, Bhall

Becky said...

Wow! If you figured it out this early in your marriage, you are way ahead of the game. But, I'm not surprised at all! Love ya!

Bill said...


Good post. I'm sorry. I meant to say great post!!

I followed the link on your brother's blog to this post. I'm glad I did, too.

Given the name of your blog, you might appreciate this post from my archives:

Grace to you and yours,