An apology is a gift, if it is genuinely heartfelt. And the way to accept a gift is with appreciation. When we have been hurt, it can be difficult to let go of the pain, the anger and the grudge. We won’t be able to accept the gift of an apology while clinging to a grudge. So, we must manage our anger, let go of the bitterness and choose forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. It is the decision to let go of a grudge and stop carrying it around. It is an act of the will. It is a cooperation with the healing process. The proper response to a sincere apology is to say, “Thank you.”
Forgiveness must not be confused with trust, however. An apology merely begins the process of rebuilding trust. Trust only returns after enough trustworthy behavior has been demonstrated. Therefore, accepting an apology is a way of saying, “I’m willing to start the process of rebuilding trust between us.” It doesn’t mean, “I trust you because you apologized.”
An apology requires vulnerability. Don’t use that vulnerability as an opportunity to cause more hurt. Don’t “rub it in.” Appreciate the gift. Accept the vulnerability in good faith and participate in healing the wound.
Elton John sang the song, “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word.” Why is it so hard to apologize? Some people have a more difficult time than others, but most of us don’t like to do it. How can we make it easier?
First, it requires that we swallow our pride and admit to being wrong or neglectful about something. Who likes being wrong? We’re all imperfect human beings, but we don’t like to admit it. We fear failure. Failure makes us look less than we want to be. So, we hesitate to apologize out of fear. How can we conquer the fear?
There’s nothing wrong with setting a high bar to strive for. However, we must realize that human beings learn largely through failure. It’s how we learn to walk, for example. Even after we learn to walk, we still stumble sometimes. It’s called being human. So, conquering the fear involves accepting our humanity and being open to learning. Learning is a good thing. Embrace it. Have a teachable spirit. We all have something to learn. Those unwilling to learn won’t grow much. They also tend to have problematic relationships.
Secondly, it helps to understand that a genuine apology is a gift. When you give a person a gift, they tend to warm up to you. There is a bit of a risk involved, because not everyone knows how to graciously accept a gift. Give the gift anyway. Take the risk. More often than not, a genuine apology will bring healing and fuel connection between people.
Thirdly, make sure the apology is genuine. An apology that is crafted only to “get you out of trouble” is usually easy to spot, and it only leads to more hurt. A genuine apology acknowledges the hurt caused, takes responsibility for one’s role in the hurt, and commits to avoiding the hurt in the future. An apology is about making amends, not dodging responsibility.
The healing that a genuine apology can promote far outweighs the discomfort of giving the apology. It’s worth the effort. Next, we’ll explore the importance of accepting an apology graciously.