Matthew 5:9 (New International Version)
” Blessed are the peacemakers,for they will be called sons of God.”
Have you ever been on the receiving end of a really bad apology? You find yourself truly wronged by someone; you deliberate as to whether or not to confront that person. When you finally reach that understanding that you cannot let the offense go, you do your best to confront your brother or sister in the manner Jesus laid out. But instead of “winning” your brother or sister, you get clowned.
That has happened to me more times than I can count. And no matter how old I get, a bad apology makes it so much more difficult to forgive my offender. Since God does not give me the option of refusing to forgive, when I find myself faced with a bad apology, I just take a big-girl-pill and suck it up. I know enough to know that not only have I given my share of bad apologies, but that I have committed offenses for which I have never even thought to utter an apology – and you know what? Since I have offered and regularly offer a sincere “blanket” apology for my sins, complete with as much repentance as this stinky ol’ heart of mine can muster, God has and continually forgives me of every single one. That is the grace I have because I have committed lordship of my life over to Christ and accept his death on the cross for payment of my sins. If you don’t know that type of freedom, I encourage you to investigate it for yourself.
Saved or not, however, everyone knows what it feels like to get and to give a bad apology or to use a colloquialism, “a jacked up” apology. Let’s examine a few before exploring how to and why we should bother to improve upon them.
The “I’m Sorry You Feel That Way” Apology
This apology kicks rocks because instead of taking responsibility for having committed a wrong, the offender blames the victim for “misunderstanding” or for being “too sensitive” without actually saying “It’s your fault this happened.” This form of apologizing really says, “I’m sorry that you are such a loser, and that I have to be bothered with you.” Needless to say it is unsatisfying because it lacks true acknowledgment of an offense and compassion for the injured person.
The “I’m Sorry, But…” Apology
This apology is the most deceiving of all because it can actually have the appearance of a sincere apology. Depending upon the tone of the person issuing it, the receiving party can actually be fooled into thinking that (s)he has received genuine closure. It is a sneaky one because sometimes the “but” half of it doesn’t come right away. If we’re in conversation and you apologize, but then follow it up with a “but,” I know that you are not accepting the fact that you did something to offend me. You are defending yourself. What you are really telling me is that even though you may have done something untoward, you had a really good reason for doing so. Therefore, since you were just doing what needed to be done, you’ve really done nothing wrong. So technically you are really not apologizing. I like to think of it the way my friend and former pastor, Rev. Jody D. Moore, of Praise Tabernacle Bible Church once explained it to me. He pointed out that whenever “but” is used in a sentence it negates everything that precedes it. Don’t believe me? Try it:
- We had a really great dinner, but the turkey was dry as rice cakes. Good dinner + “but” = Not a good dinner
- She made a beautiful bride, but her dress was ill-fitting. Beautiful bride + “but” = Not a beautiful bride
- I would do this favor for you, but I don’t have the authority. I would + “but” = I won’t
- I am sorry I stole from you, but I needed the money. I am sorry + “but” = I am not really sorry it just seemed like a good way to start this sentence.
As stated above, the “I am sorry, but” apology is a sneaky one. Sometimes the “but” doesn’t come for days, weeks, months, or even years later. I once had an ugly disagreement with a relative, who went on to apologize for speaking to me so poorly. I was shocked because this person is known in our family for never admitting wrong doing. I was so please with what appeared to be a change of heart that I accepted her apology right away and was foolish enough to think all was well between us – that is until she blind-sided me with the “but.” In a conversation that would take place much later, this woman would justify each of the for which she had previously apologized months before. It was clear to me that she had been thinking about her speech for a long while, perhaps even having rehearsed it. At any rate, it was the biggest and perhaps the latest “but” I had ever experienced. And like all “buts” it totally negated everything that had come before it. Ah well. It is what it are.
The Neutral Non-Acknowledgment Apology
I don’t know if this can technically can be called an apology because the words “I’m sorry,” are not usually uttered. This type of offering usually follows an offense, but serves the purpose of carrying on with “business as usual.” My husband says that people in business use this maneuver a lot. The offense occurs, whatever it is – corporate backstabbing, catching someone in a lie, loss of temper, a detail that slipped through the cracks – but the offender attempts to “move past” the incident without actually acknowledging that it happened. Your boss curses you out at 11:00 AM and by 3:00 PM is inquiring of your weekend plans as though nothing happened. At best, with this type of situation you might get a statement like the following: “I hope you didn’t take that business earlier the wrong way.” A statement of this nature manages not to acknowledge wrongdoing while at the same time putting you at fault for “taking it the wrong way.” It is nothing short of diabolic genius.
The Enthusiastic Non-Acknowledgment Apology
I can say for sure that this type of apology is really common among women – especially mother to daughter. I have a really close friend whose mother, a well-bred southern belle, can slice her daughter up with a few well chosen words as easily as she can carve a prize-winning turkey. My friend has shared instances where her mother has crossed the line in her enthusiastic rebukes, and both my friend and the mother were aware of it. Without fail, after a “cooling off” period, my friend’s mother will call her with an enthusiastic offer to go on a shopping spree, a day trip to a spa, to come over for dinner. While the mother’s behavior is often kind and loving on these occasions, she never admits to having hurt her child.
I have gotten apologies like such from acquaintances. After I have heard that you’ve been dogging me out all over town, you dare to greet me with an enthusiastic “Hey Guuuuuuuuuuuurl!” ? This type of apology reminds me of Saul, when Samuel confronted him after his failure at Amalek. Saul, knowing full well he had just disobeyed God, came out to greet Samuel with “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.” Since Samuel never was the okeydoke, he does not let Saul slide. He responds with “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is the lowing of cattle that I hear?” Samuel confronts Saul, who then goes on to offer a blaming apology (see below). Both attempts were a total failure, resulting in Saul losing the crown.
The Blaming Apology
This apology is one of the worst ever. Often used in conjunction with the “I’m sorry but…” apology, it acknowledges that a wrong was done, BUT…not only is the wrong not the fault of the offender,but the wrong doing is the fault of the person who was wronged! The best (or worst as the case may be) one I have ever heard happened during a counseling session, where one spouse actually said to the other, “I am sorry I cheated on you, but if you had paid me more attention, it never would have happened.” >blink!< >blink!< Everyone in the room except for the jackleg spouse offering this “apology” did a double take. To this day, this person still claims to have apologized for the affair.
How To Offer A Great Apology
Offering a decent apology really is not that difficult. The next time you find yourself in the position to offer one, consider the following:
- Humble yourself. Put your pride aside. Concern yourself with restoring a fellow human being with dignity and respect – not with proving you are right.
- Don’t trip off of how the offended person confronts you. You never know what is going on inside of the person. Be thankful that they are coming to you – instead of cutting you off.
- Listen in order to understand. Don’t assume you already know what the person will say – even if you’ve heard it many times before. Husbands and wives, this is a big mistake we often make when our spouses confront us. Avoid it at all costs. Nothing about cutting your spouse off says, “I love you.”
- Repeat the offended person’s version of events back to him/her. I find this to be helpful because often when I have to say out loud what I have done to offend the person, I see where I went wrong and simultaneously what I need to fix the situation.
- Refuse to defend your behavior. Enough said.
- Acknowledge what you did to offend the person. Accept responsibility.
- Apologize for your actions and for injuring the other person.
- Ask what you can do to restore the relationship and follow through.
In my home, my family has pretty much tossed out the phrase “I’m sorry.” What my husband and I have adopted and teach our children to say is, “(Name of offended person), I was wrong to (insert offense here), please forgive me.” When an apology ends with this sentence, the matter is usually resolved.
It goes without saying that there are many more horrible ways to apologize and many more ways to offer a sincere apology.
What are some of the worst apologies you’ve given or received? What are some of the better ones? How did you handle them? I’d like to hear about some of your success stories or failures. We learn equally as well from both.
Be blessed Family!
Other Related Articles: