What a difference a good apology can make in our relationships! Though actions do speak louder, words certainly help start the healing. An apology that begins with “I’m sorry YOU feel…” just doesn’t cut it. The word “you” should never follow sorry, if we really mean to take responsibility. Instead, the word “I” should follow, as in “I’m sorry I did…” Without that real ownership for the misdeed, the person harmed won’t likely find the apology very sincere.
I recently heard Rabbi Steve Leder explain the four steps of an apology according to the Jewish tradition. Step one, stop the bad behavior, period. Two, truly feel regret about the harm done, face it. Three, confess the sin out loud and specifically tell the person you hurt “I was wrong” as part of your apology. And four, make a plan to never repeat it again, something tangible to really make a change.
How often we fall short of even naming our bad behavior, let alone stepping up to the plate to address it with self-discipline, heartfelt remorse, honest words, and living amends. What are we afraid of? Surely staying stuck in the transgression isn’t peaceful. Will it be embarrassing? Maybe. Could the other person use it as leverage? Possibly. Don’t they owe us an apology for something too? Probably. But instead of attaching to an outcome, we need to keep the focus on freeing ourselves. Let’s make our apologies worthwhile. May you be inspired!