In the context of the topic of apologies, it's weird that the word "apologist" means a person who speaks or writes in defence of their beliefs. He or she employs argument and reason in support of their position with the goal of fending off detractors and attracting disciples. Conversely, when giving an apology in pursuit of healthy relationship, you are speaking up for what you did wrong, fully stepping into the truth of your hurtful behaviour while fending off your own pride. What you are defending is your authentic ownership of your own wrongful actions that caused offense or harm to another, taking your self-justifying armour off to engage with your heart.
You are fighting a battle for honesty, integrity and restored, genuine relationship.
In my previous posts on this topic, I covered ways to deeply consider your contribution with clarity and find strategies to infuse our delivery with true humility. This post will focus on demonstrating a thoughtful spirit towards the person you hurt.
Be thoughtful about how you serve the person you hurt
Many apologies come across as arm twisting for a way back into the relationship or removal of consequences. There are probably hundreds of love songs where the singer says sorry for "what happened"and "I'm so miserable" and "you were right" and "I just want you back". Take a look at this refrain from a soulful song by Air Supply:
I'm all out of love, I'm so lost without you
I know you were right believing for so long
I'm all out of love, what am I without you?
I can't be too late to say that I was so wrong
These lovelorn words and haunting music resonate for the loss of the singer and are relatable for all who have lost a romantic relationship. But the focus on the pain of the person apologising instead of the pain of the injured makes this a terrible apology! A healing apology carefully considers the cost of your actions to the other person and demonstrates willingness to pay.
Make generous material restitution
Making full restitution for what was damaged or lost by your actions speaks volumes about your grasp on how you harmed another. Material restitution includes payment for material losses such as repairs to things you broke, restoration of things you stole, replacement of things you lost. In the Bible, Zacchaeus demonstrated true remorse for his greedy, thieving life by committing to pay back four times what he stole. The multiplied amount of that material restitution recognised the ongoing impact of loss and brought forward an other-focused spirit that cared more for those harmed than his own financial security.
Make other-focused emotional restitution
Relational and emotional restitution has no price tag attached in dollars but is equally important in healing the relationship. Trust most often takes a hit because of sinful patterns in the relationship. When you show willingness to wait till the other person is ready to trust you instead of pressuring them to let you back in on your terms, you show that you are serious about taking responsibility and accepting consequences. The book of Proverbs teaches us not to trust a "foolish person" and taking this step to allow the other to say when trust is restored will be the wisest thing you can do for relational restitution.
Emotional restitution also involves demonstrating empathy for the hurt that the other person feels because of what you did. That's not saying, "I feel so sorry for you" (ouch!) but saying, "I get it that you are mad (scared/don't want to trust me/frustrated/disappointed/etc.). That makes sense, and I'm so sorry that my actions caused you that pain."
Allow time and space for the other person to come to forgiveness
Another way to thoughtfully serve the person you hurt is by asking for forgiveness. This is an invitation for the other person to move towards restored relationship. There is potential for this to undermine your apology if you ask for forgiveness as an entitlement or suggest that they will be at fault if they don't forgive immediately. Gently, generously raising the question of forgiveness signals that you are aware that acceptance of your apology is not automatic and that you hope to reconcile when they have had to time digest what you said in their own journey with God. Demanding forgiveness on the spot will kill your apology as will demanding it in the future as the thing they owe you. If you have thoroughly considered and confessed your wrong to God, you know that ultimate forgiveness is yours according to his promise. Your contrite spirit before him situates you to accept the time needed for the other person to work through forgiveness. A contrite heart can receive grace from God even when forgiveness is not forthcoming.
When we break relationship with hurtful and harmful actions, the way to healing is through the surgery of genuinely taking ownership and offering a truly heartfelt apology with no strings attached. God holds his arms open to all who run to him with honesty and will hold you close while you take the brave step of speaking sorry to the ones you have hurt.
Jane is passionate about equipping others to engage with their conflicts confidently and compassionately. In addition to coaching through Quiet Wisdom, she can be contracted for mediation through PeaceWise.