Making an Apology Count

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy. Proverbs 28:13

I am going to be transparent in this moment and say that I have had many broken relationships in my life. They have not been easy to walk through, but they have taught me a great deal about how to handle those closest to me. They have been my greatest learning lessons. One of the biggest sticking points for me in moving forward in a relationship has to do with apologies. I can't seem to continue a relationship if the break was deeply painful and the other person doesn't make it right. There have been multiple (yes, more than one) relationships that I have decided to leave behind because the other person wouldn't go through the reconciliation process. There have been times I know I have offended others and not made the appropriate apology which cost me dearly. We all have failed when it comes to making an apology. So here are some tips that I have learned along the way on how to rebuild a relationship that may seem permanently broken.

Humble yourself. The first part of making an apology is to humble yourself. If you aren't willing to be humble then your apology won't be sincere. Many times people don't apologize because of pride thinking that they are lowering themselves. Here's the irony: Every time you apologize you become bigger in the eyes of the offended party. Without fail. Every time you don't you ultimately lower that person's opinion of you. So the only way to rise is to humble yourself.

Don't blame shift or counter attack. I had this happen a few years back...I accepted someone's apology and then she immediately started attacking me for what she thought I had did wrong. Can I tell you that at this point there is no reconciliation? Makes sense, right?  When you apologize don't shift the blame onto the other person. Keep it squarely on your shoulders and own your part. If they need to apologize to you let them do that. Trying to make them own their junk makes your apology null and void.

Drop the reluctance. Get over yourself. Run to reconciliation because the most important things here on this earth aren't things. They are people. God even sees it that way when He asks us in Matthew 5:24 to put reconciliation with others above worship of God. Why? Because He knows that how we love others is an expression of how we love Him. {I John 4:20}

Be specific. If you can't name your sin then you really aren't owning it. When my boys were little I would require them to practice apologies by also naming what they did. Saying, "I am sorry I hurt you" is good, but you need to admit what you actually did. Those that can't aren't repentant, and the offended party will pick up on it. Build trust by being specific.

Acknowledge the hurt. Acknowledge to the other person that there is hurt. Whatever you do, don't tell them they are being overly sensitive! You are actually blame shifting and tell the other party that they have a problem, not you. Honestly, if you have a broken relationship then both the offender and and the offended have a problem. By telling them you know they hurt you can soften their hearts toward you.

Accept the consequences. You break a dish, and you can try to glue it back together. It, however, will never be the same. Accept the fact that if the sin was extremely damaging that your relationship may never go back to the way it was. There is now a severe lack of trust that may take years to overcome. Forcing that person to be in relationship with you communicates that you have an attitude of "I can do what I want and make things go back to the way they were regardless of my actions." Not true.

Change the behavior. Repentance means turning around and going a different direction. Changing your behavior with the offended person instills trust which is what your relationship with him or her needs most at this point. The person who apologizes over and over again and doesn't change the behavior will soon be left lacking in relationships.

Give them time and love. They may need time to process. They may need time to heal. So you may need to stand back for awhile from the relationship. Other times what you will need to do is pour on the love. Go the extra mile for them. Ask them what they need {space or love} and also watch their verbal and non-verbal cues to figure out what is best.

Pray. Bathe them and yourself in prayer. Go to God on their behalf asking for healing. Pray that God will change your heart as you interact with them. Asking for true heart change for both parties is really what is needed in the reconciliation process. For the offended, he/she will need healed heart and one that will softened. For the offender, he or she will benefit from a broken heart that is eager to change and make things right.

Learn from your mistakes. Probably the best way to make an apology is not to have to make one at all! By truly confessing and making it right we up our chances of not committing the same "crime" again. Confession to another allows us to be free from the sin and truly move forward. Not dealing with it means you are still tied to it and are more likely to do the same action again.

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Here are some great books that deal with reconciliation and apologies...

The Five Languages of Apology: How to Experience Healing in all Your Relationships

The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict

Peacefakers, Peacebrakers, Peacemakers: Member Guide {To be used with the above book.}

Encountering the Healing Power of Forgiveness (Living with Unmet Desires)

Enemies of the Heart: Breaking Free from the Four Emotions That Control You {The section on guilt in this book has an excellent explanation of why making it right is so important!!

Need more Hope and Healing in your relationships?

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