Just the other day my 16 year old son decided to play a joke on his younger 13 year old brother. While his brother was in the bathroom he held the doorknob so that when his little brother wanted to come out, he couldn’t. Funny joke, right? Not if you’re the one being held hostage in a 4’ x 6’ room!
Once my older son released his prisoner, my younger son was still not satisfied. So my younger son attempted to address the issue with his brother who refused to acknowledge his dastardly deed! After several frustrating attempts, my younger son turned to me, the “peacemaker,” to bring some closure. I warned him, “Are you sure you want me to intervene?” (Because between brothers, turning to “Mom” for help can be a fate worse than death!) But he threw caution to the wind and turned to me anyway. So once I was able to get the older brother to confess, (which is pretty easy, because for some reason when I confront this particular son with a lie he’s told, he can never keep a straight face!) I asked him to apologize to his younger brother. Unfortunately, my older and “should-have-known-better” son asked me a crazy question, “Now, what is the reason for apologizing?” After I threw away the hairs that I had pulled out of my head, I calmly replied, “Because it’s important for you to admit your part and because it helps your brother to feel respected.” With that he nodded and offered up the coveted apology.
I grew up in a family that didn’t offer up apologies very often or at all. I am not blaming my parents, because they probably didn’t see it modeled in their own homes. But the fact remains that I went into my own marriage feeling that somehow to offer an apology meant something was wrong with me—so why admit that? I felt it made me vulnerable or set me up as a sitting duck! Thankfully, God and my husband Gary helped me to realize that this belief was far from the truth. As soon as I recognized the necessity and power of apologizing, I began to use it—sparingly at first (because, after all, humble pie tastes terrible to a newbie!). Once I began to witness the amazing healing properties of an apology, I began to use it much more indiscriminately. And to my surprise it got easier and easier, tasting better and better. But most of all, I saw how powerfully medicinal it was not only to the offended, but also to my own heart! So allow me to share seven purposes that I have found to be true in regard to apologies.
Purpose One – It Acknowledges the Hurt
FOR THE OFFENDED: It definitely helps him feel that his feelings matter to the offender.
FOR THE OFFENDER: It helps him to begin to understand the negative impact his actions have had on the other person, drastically decreasing the likelihood of reoffending in the same way.
Purpose Two – It Demonstrates that the Offender is Taking Responsibility
FOR THE OFFENDED: It helps him feel relieved of a burden that does not belong to him.
FOR THE OFFENDER: It helps him commit to better behavior in the future.
Purpose Three – It Shows that the Offender Knows What He Did was Wrong
FOR THE OFFENDED: It helps him feel validated and respected—helping him to reopen his heart to the relationship once again.
FOR THE OFFENDER: It helps him to recognize the seriousness of his violation.
Purpose Four – It Indicates that the Offense will be Avoided in the Future
FOR THE OFFENDED: It gives the necessary reassurance that the offense will not continue. Without that reassurance, it is difficult, if not impossible, to move toward trusting the other person again.
FOR THE OFFENDER: It brings into focus what needs to be avoided, which results in a greater likelihood of success in changing the offending behavior.
Purpose Five – It Ignites the Healing Process
FOR THE OFFENDED: It helps him feel heard, valued, and respected. It is not absolutely necessary to have these feelings in place for healing (since God can provide what is missing), but it does help to ignite and speed the healing process.
FOR THE OFFENDER: Knowing that the offended has not rejected him helps him to be able to move toward healing more effectively as well.
Purpose Six – It Refocuses the Relationship on Respect
FOR THE OFFENDED: The benefit is obvious—we all need and want respect. Respect needs to be a foundational element we build every relationship upon in our lives.
FOR THE OFFENDER: It helps him to find his way back to the right relationship path which is paved with mutual respect.
Purpose Seven – It Strengthens Trust
FOR THE OFFENDED: It is important to know that the offender sees his wrongdoing as just that, wrongdoing! If there is no apology or admission of guilt, there is no assurance that the offense will not occur again. No one, but a fool, can offer trust in that kind of environment.
FOR THE OFFENDER: When the offended person opens himself up to reestablishing trust, the offender is given a
second chance. And everyone likes second chances!
God be with you as you venture into the healing waters of apology!