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Raise your hand if you’ve even been apologized to but never quite felt satisfied? You know that God has commanded you to forgive, but something just feels wack and unfinished. Well you are not alone! I too have felt that way and thanks to Dr. Gary Chapman, famously known for The 5 Love Languages, I finally have an answer as to why. According to Dr. Chapman, fully fleshed out in When Sorry Isn't Enough: Making Things Right with Those You Love, there are levels to this apology game. Alongside Dr. Jennifer Thomas, Dr. Chapman has discovered five fundamental aspects or “languages” of an apology. They believe that: “Understanding and applying the five languages of an apology will greatly enhance all of your relationships.” You see, saying “sorry” maybe adequate for some and JUST the beginning for others. Because most of us weren't given the tools to issue a satisfying apologize, let’s learn some tips that may help us move forward in the reconciliation process. My intention intention with this post is for us to learn how to repair relational wounds. Let's work to rebuild trust, restoration and reestablish peace.
Leave Your Explanation At the Door
“But let me explain.”
“You see, what had happened was.”
“If you would not of, then I would not have.”
“I’m sorry, but”
Webster defines an apology as an admission of error or discourtesy accompanied by an expression of regret. So given our benchmark, if you’ve said any of the above phrases, you have offered up excuses and not an apology my friend. No explanation will ever be good enough to cover the pain, hurt or disrespect that your words or behavior have “caused”. Justifying your behavior by wrapping it up in an explanation is unloving, unkind and can be infuriating. You must accept responsibility and ownership. Resist the urge to just react out of defensiveness. Take a second to pause and consider how to respond with full ownership, empathy, humility and love.
Validate Their Pain
Another portion of an effective apology is to empathetically validate the pain your words or actions caused your spouse. You can use a phrase like “help me understand how this affected you so that I do my best not to repeat”. Or even “I acknowledge that my behavior may have this effect on you and for that I am sorry. If empathy does not naturally occur for you, the good news is that you can ask God to help you understand and better respond with empathy.
The Action Plan
You’ve acknowledged how you dropped the ball. You understand how your behavior negatively affected your spouse. Now you are at “the final phase of an apology”. This is the culmination of what you’ve learned as a result of listening and empathizing with your spouses pain. This is where you’re held accountable to your verbal declaration to be better. What is the reconciliation action plan. We are looking not for perfect transformation, but intentional progress. You can use phrases like “what would make you feel: better, validated, understood, secure, acknowledged?”. You can also work together on action plan. What’s most important is to understand that this is a team effort. You are working together with your spouse to reestablish intimacy and peace. What would help them heal in those wounded areas. It could sound something like this: Next time, I’ll wake up earlier. Next time, I’ll set a reminder in my phone that will sound off an hour before. Or if you’re the offended, use this opportunity to verbalize what would make you feel better. For some more tips on effective conflict resolution, read this article.
You may be rolling your eyes saying “that apologies are not this deep. All the offended needs is a simple “sorry” and then carry on with forgiving me as the Lord has commanded”. However, it is important to measure the potential immeasurable cost of poor reconciliation. Nothing should be “too much” when it comes to repairing a relationship wound. Repairing and healing a broken relationship should be your priority.We should not be above doing the work in areas where we may have offended or disappointed someone that we love. In life you WILL offend your spouse and others so it is imperative to urgently approach apologies. Make sure your apologies are sincere and filled with grace and understanding. Remember: Conflicts, not repeat poor behavior, are not indicative of a poor marriage. They represent am opportunity to improve, show grace and extend mercy. I leave you with this prayer: Lord, by the power of Your Holy Spirit, give us the power to humble ourselves and repair relationships that we have unfortunately wounded. Help us to restore intimacy and be the peacemakers you have called us to be.
How was the last apology that you received?