Jonathan's Perspective  

Sep 28

Art of Apology

'Art of Apology'

I'm less than perfect.  This week has been no different.  In fact, I have had to say 'I'm sorry' on numerous occasions - and that is just to my wife!  The fact is, as often as I make mistakes, I should be really good at apologizing!  We all should be.  And for those who are wondering, the art of apology is the opposite of the art of manipulation.  Manipulation is about getting one's way, while apologizing is about healing a relationship.  True apologies create the safety and respect in which a relationship can flourish.  Gary Chapman describes five important aspects of apology in his book The 5 Languages of Apology.  Let's take a brief look at those.

First, apology is the expression of regret - not regret that you got caught, but that you hurt the other person, your team or your company.  Regret is the most basic form of apology which simply recognizes that damage has been done. Regret is the expression of sorry for the condition things are in. 

Second, regret should lead to taking responsibility.  A true apology doesn't simply regret the situation but, also, acknowledges one's role in creating the situation.  Like they say, it takes two to tango, and it is extremely rare that only one person is at fault.  We all need to practice those three difficult word... 'I was wrong.'  I dare you to say it once out loud!  Hard, isn't it?  This apology should never have a 'but' at the end.  The bigger the but, the more worthless the apology.  You've heard it before: "I'm sorry I said that... BUT you had it coming."  "I'm sorry I got angry and flew off the handle... BUT you are so infuriating!"  As soon as we blame someone or something else, we are no longer apologizing but self-justifying.  A good apology accepts responsibility for contributing to the problem.  Families and businesses waste so much time trying to affix blame.  How refreshing it would be for someone to step forward, accept their responsibility and get on with life and work!

Third, we need to offer restitution.  Our judicial system is based on a punitive model.  However, if someone stole $10,000 dollars from you, wouldn't you rather get the money back and the person have a lighter sentence, rather than be out all the money as you nurse the satisfaction that he/she is suffering?  Restitution recognizes that when we take responsibility for the damage done we also need to take responsibility for restoring the person.  This could be correcting a mistake, fixing something you broke, restoring a person's reputation through a public statement, and so forth.  A true apology takes action to fix what is broken and restore the person who was offended. 

Fourth, repentance is the next step in a heartfelt apology.  After a while, words become worthless.  What a spouse or employer wants to see is a change in behavior.  Jesus said, 'Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.'  To repent means to change course, to turn away from something.  Jesus is telling us to turn away from evil and into the right way of the Kingdom of God.  We owe the same to one another.  C. S. Lewis said that sometimes, when we find ourselves on the wrong road, we need to turn back in order to move forward on the right road.  This requires the intention to act differently, the means or tools to act differently, and the accountability to help you achieve it.  Changing ingrained habits is probably the hardest part of apologizing, but, by the help of one another and the Holy Spirit, it can be done. 

Finally, we need to request forgiveness.  When we sin against someone through our language or actions, we hurt their spirit.  It is like injecting the poison of anger, bitterness and resentment into their hearts.  When we ask their forgiveness we give them a way to release that poison so that they will not continue to suffer the effects of what you have done.  The prodigal son practiced his apology to his father saying, 'I have sinned against heaven and against you...'  He had the insight to realize that when he hurt his father, he was sinning against God.  Sinning against someone is a spiritual matter that needs spiritual language for healing: 'Forgive me.' 

I challenge you to become a professional in the art of apology.  It will change the atmosphere of your relationships at home and at work.  John the Baptist said of Jesus, 'I must decrease and he must increase.'  Apologizing is like that.  It helps us decrees so our relationships can increase. 

Blessings,

Jonathan

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