The art of the sincere heartfelt apology has become obsolete. Instead of apologizing, people seem to find multiple reasons and methods to give half-hearted acknowledgements of their wrong doings and offenses often finding loopholes uttering statements like “I’m sorry if you were offended” or “I’m sorry if your feelings were hurt”, leaving the offended to wonder “ are they really sorry”?
In every relationship, especially in a marriage, misunderstandings, irritations and straight up fails are going to occur more often than we would like. However, how we accept responsibility for our foibles and failures can determine if we leave our partners whole and encouraged or irritated, doubtful and dismayed. The best way to learn how to apologize is to recognize what is NOT an apology.
Qualifying an apology with words like” if you feel”, “if you think” or “but you” immediately places the focus back on the person who was offended. When the word “if” is used, the offended party must begin to evaluate whether their feelings or responses are valid and reasonable. Reversing the blame in this way is a clever attempt to remove responsibility for the impact of the offensive actions. Regardless of what was intended, “I’m sorry if you” is not a true apology because it ascribes the cause to the offended.
Similarly, saying, “You did…too” is a way of silencing the offended from further addressing an offense. In addition, this tactic is meant to shift the focus of the discussion to the offended. It places them in a defensive position which ultimately can absolve the offender from being accountable and making a sincere apology.
Owning one’s failures and expressing sincere and genuine remorse is vital for restoring the health to the relationship. Consider initiating apologies with statements like “I’m sorry for …” or “I’m sorry that my behavior caused you …”. Understanding that you can express remorse by simply acknowledging your less than perfect behavior opens the doorway to grace and a pathway to forgiveness.