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Apologies….an art form?

January 31, 2008

 A couple of months ago I read a book by Gary Chapman called The Five Languages of Apology. While I read the book I thought it was good and I gleaned a few insights, but I have learned over the following months that the concepts in the book have been much more important to me than I realized while first reading the book.

Gary speaks of there being five different languages that we both speak and hear apologies in. They are: expressing regret (saying I’m sorry), accepting responsibility (saying I was wrong), making restitution, genuine repentance (expressing it won’t happen again), and requesting forgiveness.

“When we apologize, we accept responsibility for our behavior, seeking to make amends with the person who has offended.  Genuine apology opens the door to the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation.  Then we can continue to build the relationship.  Without apology, the offense sits as a barrier, and the quality of the relationship is diminished.  Good relationships are always marked by a willingness to apologize, forgive, and reconcile.  The reason many relationships are cold and distant is because we have failed to apologize.”

I am wrestling through what apologies should include. Someone I know hurt me recently and overstepped my boundaries. Their response when I brought up the issue was “I am sorry you felt that way/feel your boundaries were not respected.” They didn’t say, “I am sorry my actions resulted in you feeling pain.”. Does a genuine apology involve taking responsibility for our behavior? Does it need to be expressed that we are recognizing our behavior affected someone else negatively, or is that just a reflection of how sincere it might come across based on the receiver’s apology language?

It is important to balance owning our own thoughts, feelings, behavior, etc. though with our expectations of others. Regardless of what someone has done to me my reactions are mine to own. If I express that someone must apologize or that a lack of recognizing their part in my pain is their responsibility then I am pushing blame onto them. While an apology that expresses someone genuinely is sorry that their actions hurt may leave me feeling better, the goal is in no way to make the other person feel worse and experience pain through the apology process.

Doing relationships well sure is tough!

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