In our family, we need fresh starts on a daily basis. Anytime we can apologize and do a reset, we do it. We don’t want to let the small stuff fester into bigger stuff. I’m in no way saying we have all of this figured out, but I want to give you a picture of my sinful and forgiveness-needy family. When you need a fresh start with your family, try this method of apologizing:
Say, “I’m sorry for ___________.”
Acknowledge that you regret what you did and are sorry for doing it. Don’t just say “sorry” without using personal pronouns. Own your apology.
Be as specific as possible so the person you have wronged knows whether you’re apologizing for what actually hurt them. Sometimes we have a way of assuming we know, and we might totally miss it. Your assumption may very well be something you need to apologize for but maybe that’s not at all what the other person was feeling hurt about. This may show us other things we need to apologize for.
Note: If you apologize to keep peace or to placate another person and not to repent, it’s not a real apology.
Psalm 51:17 “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”
Say, “I was wrong because/when I __________.”
This phrase doesn’t taste good. But admitting fault is necessary to repentance.
Include your why. A why is NOT an excuse. Be sure not to use it that way. For example, “I was wrong for speaking to you with unloving words because I do love you and I don’t want to communicate with you the way I just did.” Your why is great opportunity to further own your actions.
Psalm 51:3 “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.”
Say, “How can I make it right?”, “Can we start again?”, or “Can I have a re-do?”
Assure the injured party of your love for them because they may feel betrayed and that if you truly loved them you wouldn’t have done such a thing.
Sometimes our words are not enough, sometimes action is needed. For example, “I’m sorry I forgot to pick up your dry cleaning like I said I would because I know you needed those clothes for your big meeting tomorrow. Is there something here that I can press for you tonight that you could wear tomorrow instead?”
Our actions matter. And sometimes further action is needed to make things right.
Matthew 3:8 “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.”
Say, “I will try not to do this again.” Or “Here’s what I’ve learned so I won’t repeat this.”
Turn around from the action and make a plan to ensure that you will not do it again. Follow your words with action.
Acts 3:19 “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out.”
Say, “Will you forgive me?”
Asking for forgiveness can be really difficult—it means we ACTUALLY did something wrong; it means we actually sinned against that person. In our own minds and hearts, we dismiss whatever we said or did as no big deal. In sin, however, heart change is needed. And for heart change to happen, we have to repent and ask for forgiveness. Requesting forgiveness asks the injured to give up their right to hate and punish you for what you did. It puts the fate of the relationship into the hands of the injured and makes you vulnerable to rejection.
1 John 1:8-9 “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Note: When someone apologizes to you, DON’T say, “it’s okay” say “I forgive you!” God has given us the responsibility and privilege to announce forgiveness to one another.
Until the next time I need to apologize...