Offering sincere apologies

February 3, 2009

The small featured article on Fox Channel last night really caught my interest.  The book by author Gary Chapman called The Five Languages of Apology. Chapman also authored the bestseller book entitled “Five Love Languages.”

I have been thinking of this issue in recent weeks.  We have all committed mistakes and have caused offenses in our relationships. I have seen many church members leave their congregations because of ruptured relationships.

There were times when the apologies seemed sincere, yet there were still not accepted.

There have been times when the apologies were made hurriedly so that the issue will be immediately closed.

In our counseling classes, the person who is offering the apologies need to understand several things first before assuming that his apologies are going to be accepted well.

In one recent conversation, one person was asking for an apology – but it was not received because the other person said “you don’t even know what you have done. How can you apologize for something you could not even admit to doing?” When the proper admission of the hurt that has been caused is missing, the apology being offered is always seen as a one-way direction, that manipulates the other person to minimize his pain.

Dr Chapman powerfully shared the 5 languages as such:

1. EXPRESSING REGRET – many times the offending person fail to acknowledge the pain that has been caused.  Many times they would give a litany of excuses to their offending behavior.  There have been times when the offended person is pointed out as the cause of it all.  “If you did not answer me with that tone….”  Such expressions are reactive and deterministic. They do not express sympathy. They do not convey regret surrounded by the understanding of the emotions felt by the offended person.

Say it sincerely.  Say sorry for how the behavior has hurt the other person. Do not offer up any excuses.  Do not point to the behavior of the other person.

2. ACCEPTING RESPONSIBILITY – coming up with excuses is very tempting.  But we must acknowledge our faults. Name what you have done. Do not minimize it – but just state it as it is.  Doing so does wonders for the other person.  The fact that you are able to name it as such, already offers a sincere understanding of what you have caused.  Accept your fault. No excuses, just plainly accept your fault and what you have done wrong.

In our culture, this is severely lacking.  We tend to minimize what we had done by saying “pag pasensyahan mo na ako…” or “bear with me..” and the we come up with other things that we think will make the behavior justifiable : ” nagdilim utak ko (everything went black), nakainom ako ( i was drunk), uminit na ulo ko (i lost my cool), tumaas na presyon ko..(my blood pressure rose up!)  and other things pertaining to our health that may have caused us to act that way…”

Don’t feel sorry about your blood pressure rising up.  Say sorry and admit that you screamed at the other person.

3. MAKING RESTITUTION – could you imagine what would happen to discussions that seek to restore things that have been broken because of conflict.  Now that you had admitted it, seek ways by which things will be restored.  Don’t force the other person to act the same way prior to the conflict.  Don’t equate forgiveness with restoration.  Forgiveness is a necessary path to restoration – but there are times that even when forgiveness has been done, restoration does not automatically follow.  Being forgiven does not give us the “right” to be restored according to our time frame.  Only God can do that.  I remember an erring father who shouted at his family “if you had already forgiven me, then you would accept me in this house!”  The whole family was terrified because of his drinking sprees and subsequent violent behavior.  So I remember stepping in and said “yes you have been forgiven… but it will take awhile for your relationship with your family to be restored.  So please step back and let your family heal without you first.”

In making restitution, we are basically asking “how can I make this right?”

4. SHOWING GENUINE REPENTANCE . The offending party seeks to show a genuine desire to change the behavior.  One is usually tempted to give promises they cannot keep just to prove how truly repentant they are.  Instead of doing this, seek ways by which you can truly change the behavior that caused the hurt.

5. REQUESTING FORGIVENESS. A direct, simple and straight-forward statement would suffice. “Will you please forgive me?”.  Can you understand why asking for forgiveness right away without a proper acknowledgment of the errant behavior, would not be very palatable?  A request for forgiveness involves humility and a sincere desire to be forgiven. Requesting forgiveness is as such – a request. It is not something we can demand from others or manipulate  others to give to us.

I pray that we begin offering sincere apologies for the wrongs we have done.  Learning the languages of apology would really help us be restored back in those relationships once damaged by conflict, real or imagined.