“I’m sorry ok?”
“I’m sorry if anything I said hurt your feelings.”
“I regret my poor choice of words, but…”
Ugh how bad are bad apologies?! They’re the pits! Rather than being the means of confessing our wrongs, bad apologies become carefully crafted means of blame-shifting, side-stepping and self-justification. But how often do we use these dodgy “apologies”, telling ourselves (and others) that we’ve done our part?
I want to share some gold from the Resolving Everyday Conflict course (Peacemaker Ministries). Today we explored how to make a good apology. It might seem simple, but good apologies are rare. Unfortunately we often excuse, minimise or even deny that any wrong was done. We rarely ask for forgiveness. Yet confession, forgiveness and reconciliation are at the heart of the gospel and should be the bread and butter of Christian living.
So what are the elements of a good apology? These are the 7 A’s taken directly from the Resolving Everyday Conflict booklet:
ADDRESS everyone involved. It’s time to acknowledge and apologise to everyone involved. Not only the person you argued with with, but others who were embroiled directly or through gossip.
AVOID ifs and buts. With these words we let ourselves off the hook and even shift the blame to the victim. No!
ADMIT specifically. Instead of hiding behind vagueness, let’s be honest with God, ourselves and others. Let’s apologise for our actions and the sinful attitudes behind them.
ACKNOWLEDGE the hurt. We need to show that we understand and care that we’ve hurt someone.
ACCEPT the consequences. If we are truly sorry for our actions, we are willing to accept the consequences. Being forgiven does not cancel out consequences.
ALTER your behaviour. Are you just sorry you got caught? Or will you actually plan, with God’s help, to change your behaviour? Express this, but don’t promise that you will “never do it again”. Broken sinners are not able to keep such promises!
ASK for forgiveness. This is so important. It provides the offended person the opportunity to respond and express forgiveness. Don’t be surprised if they need some time to think and pray about their response.
This is not a formula! Our sinful hearts will always seek a silver bullet; outward signs that show us to be righteous. If our hearts are unrepentant, we can say these words, but they will not constitute a true apology. Let’s ask God to convict us of our wrongs and bring true confession and repentance.
This might all sound nice, but faith must show itself in actions. May I encourage you to think about how you have wronged someone? Be bold and write out an apology to God. And the scary part – go to the person you have wronged and apologise. If they forgive you, you can rejoice that you are reconciled! If they do not forgive you, you have still honoured them and Christ. God is sovereign over the outcome; our responsibility is faithful obedience.
And may God bless us as we seek to follow Him, even in the most painful of situations.
Check out Peacemaker Ministries at http://peacemaker.net/
I also highly recommend their short, readable book, Resolving Everyday Conflict, by Ken Sande. You can buy it online at: