Anything we do in life, we do well when the action is fortified with deliberate and honest intention. This rings especially true when it comes to apologizing. I’m sorry – it could take less than a second to utter, yet sometimes that short phrase requires the strength of a million mental muscles to even get our tongue around it.
Being vulnerable is terrifying. And that’s exactly what the act of apology is – baring your heart to somebody so they can forgive you, with no guarantee that they will. Can we make eating humble pie easier and more effective? Read on.
We Want YOU
As Jahan Kalantar, a criminal defense lawyer, says in his TedTalk, “We favor emojis over emotion”. We know, all too well, that the accessibility of technology we’ve been blessed with can be delusive when it comes to human connection. On the one hand, we can reach the entire world in seconds. On the other hand, we are tempted to deal with our problems on the surface level of a WhatsApp message. An apology will rarely work if it’s displayed on a screen.
Furthermore, using someone else to apologize on your behalf is a cardinal error. Whomever needs to know that you are sorry, has to hear it straight from your heart. With all its flaws and imperfections, your explanations and declarations are only ever genuine and effective when delivered by you. It takes courage, but it’s the only way to truly make amends.
The WHAT and the WHY
There are reasons behind our thoughts, words, and actions. Our understanding of these reasons is an essential component of formulating and conveying an authentic and powerful apology. The awareness of what you are sorry for and why is key, especially if you’re also suffering because of it. Being eaten up by guilt is no picnic.
During your apology, say precisely what you did, describe in detail what actually happened, and abstain from covering up any part of what took place. What occurred needs to be acknowledged in all its intensity and depth. If you’re in denial, your request for forgiveness will be fragmentary. Embrace the whole story. To accept it, the addressee of your apology needs to see you are not hiding behind any excuses or half-truths.
The why is slightly more complex. There are two whys, to be precise, as we need to know why you did what you did and why you are apologizing for it. We need to understand your mistakes on both of those levels to be able to fully believe that you’re indeed acutely aware of where you went wrong. Pro tip: keep the word because in mind. It will guide you to all the answers that will build a proper apology.
Hold Yourself Accountable
Rise to the challenge and open your heart to experiencing what you put the other person through. Walk in their shoes, look at yourself from their point of view, see what they saw, hear what they heard, and feel what they felt. You have to let your heart break and internalize the pain to comprehend the long-term effects of your actions. Sounds brutal, but it’s necessary if you want to take responsibility for your missteps and misdeeds. These insights will also help you prevent history repeating itself.
(Quality) Time Heals All Wounds
“Apology is a sacred commitment. It requires complete honesty. It demands deep self-interrogation and time. It cannot be rushed”, says legendary playwright Eve Ensler in her TedTalk.
As one of the love languages, quality time creates the best possible conditions for contrition. Your undivided attention will deepen the connection built between you and the addressee of your apology, and your remorse will be heard (which is precisely what we want). Put all devices away, mute distractions, look your person in the eye, and show them that you really mean how deeply sorry you are.
Quality time heals wounds. It’s far from a quick fix, it will take a lot of patience, and it will most likely be painful. Endure it, it’s all necessary. In time – quality time – you’ll notice the particles of suffering shifting, morphing into something lighter and lighter until one day, you and your relationships will be healed.
One for You, One for Me
We may never hear an apology from someone who owes it to us. However, sometimes we need to say sorry to ourselves. Have you ever mistreated your heart by not listening to its requests? Have you pushed your body too far without taking proper care of it? Have you been too hard on yourself and dwelled on your failures too much while not acknowledging your successes?
Make sure you check in with yourself from time to time. Listen for what could be whispering within you. Look for signs of anything you would not do to thy neighbor but you’re doing to yourself. Be kind to your soul, treat your body with respect, educate your mind. And should you lack in any of these or related departments, apologize to yourself and then consciously put in effort to do better.
Sorry, Not Sorry
Keep in mind that you might have been taught to apologize for something you should embrace or even celebrate. For instance, being your authentic and unapologetic self, mustering the courage to live in accordance with your vision, owning your space in the universe, having big dreams and reaching for the stars, refusing to conform, accepting your body with all its glorious flaws, striving for knowledge and education, feeling and expressing necessary emotions, having weaknesses, prioritizing your wellbeing, taking time off, leaving toxic relationships and cutting ties with those who wish you ill.
You get the point. Provided that what you do or say does not hurt anyone in any way, never apologize for living your truth.
Too Little, Too Late?
An apology is a form of art as it is supposed to evoke a particular emotional response from the person we’re saying sorry to. With it, both the ones we mistreated and we receive the key to the doors of liberation from tension, stress, and heartache. Even when they’re long gone from this world, it’s never too late to make things right with someone in the realm of your heart. Say goodbye to resentment and open yourself to freedom. Like a phoenix from the ashes, healing rises from forgiveness. Soar with it.