For Christians, the belief that the Bible, which calls for the forgiveness of sins through a free gift of Jesus Christ, can be taken back and forgiven is central to their belief system. If there is no free grace in this world, then how can we ever be forgiven?
So we must avoid sin and God’s judgment. This is the backdrop of why apologies are so important in Christianity and for many of us, in our everyday lives.
It’s easy to forgive when you know it is within your rights to do so. But if there is some deep spiritual reason we are even required to apologize in the first place, the choice becomes up to us.
This can be as hard as taking on the sins we wish to forgive ourselves for or as easy as accepting or even questioning the level of wrongdoing that needs to be apologized for.
Admitting our wrongs is key to growth, healing, and wholeness
There is no question that saying sorry can be difficult. It is a painful process and, as a society, we have been socialized to prefer easy over hard.
But the ability to apologize—even if it is for a petty offense—can make the world a better place for all of us. By repented and released, the ability to apologize sets us free from the bondage of regrets, blame, and isolation.
And when we make amends, it can transform how we act.
Even if we are not upset or have no regrets over a situation, it is possible to be both certain we have done wrong, and also genuinely sorry. The distinction between the two is not always clear to us until we begin the process of taking responsibility.
In my own life, there have been many apologies and apologies. Some of them were handled poorly. Some of them were handled perfectly.
But we cannot honestly say we don’t regret the times we didn’t apologize. Often times, the apology was simply not articulated or expressed.
So how do we do it right?
When someone apologizes to you, your first instinct is to say “it’s okay”. But this is actually very harmful to you.
Why? Because if you tell your partner that what they have done is okay, they will often perceive it to be okay, and will in turn do the same thing to you.
They will expect your forgiveness and think that your feelings will never change.
The first time your partner says you’re forgiven, be sure to say, “that’s great that you said that, but I don’t think that is true”.
Or even better, say, “That’s great that you forgave me, but I would like you to not say that again.”
Asking your partner not to apologize is a vital part of building a healthy relationship. The trick is to avoid saying “it’s okay”, and instead say something that will make them understand why they should not do that again.
The idea is to slowly get your partner to see that it is not okay to apologize for things that were not your fault.
People will often come to you with a list of different things that you did to cause their behavior and ask, “when are you going to apologize for that?”
This can often trigger a guilt trip that you will never recover from. Instead, ask, “how can I make you understand that this is not your fault?”
They will often say that they are trying to apologize, and often a list of things they did will come flying out.
The key is to keep a cool head and not panic
You have two options here:
- Apologize and then explain your intent or “intentions” to the person who asked.
- Simply say “I am sorry that you think that I did that, and this is why I didn’t apologize for it”.
This second option is best because it gives you a chance to focus on the important things. Rather than trying to explain your motivations, ask them what the most important thing to them is.
Also, you are then not seen as the villain of the relationship. It is seen as two people working together and sharing a mutually supportive relationship.
Take the high road
Now you are in a safe position where you can listen and focus on the most important thing.
Asking people not to apologize is not only making them feel guilty and bad for asking, but it is also often met with anger instead of forgiveness. Often, the angry person will use the apology as leverage to get what they want, even if it’s just to get you to go away.
If your partner is angry with you, you don’t want to try to “make them happy” by apologizing. You want them to forgive you, and apologize if they need to.
If they simply want an explanation for why you didn’t apologize, don’t apologize. Don’t tell them that you are sorry if they don’t believe you.
After all, as they say, you should always “take the high road”.
I know that most of us who are in a relationship will tell you that it’s uncomfortable to tell your partner something that they don’t want to hear. However, once you do say it, you need to be able to own it.
Say “I’m sorry I didn’t say that earlier.” And then continue, “but when I was telling you that it’s not your fault, I was worried that you wouldn’t forgive me.”
By owning your mistake, you will not only be seen as a strong person, but a courageous person, because you took a step towards moving forward.