Earlier this year, I wrote about the power of apologies here. An apology can be healing or damaging. I’ve had experiences demonstrating both of these recently and wanted to share.
The first apology was incredibly healing. It was a heartfelt interaction with specific details of the wrongdoing, true remorse, and acknowledgement of harm. Despite the temptation to soften the apology with the reasons why, an attempt to do this was stopped. Everyone knew the harm was not intentional and there were other factors involved but in that moment, the apology needed to stand alone. The extenuating circumstances could be addressed another time if necessary.
The people involved felt heard, validated, honored, and the relationship was strengthened.
Just because we don’t intentionally set out to hurt someone, doesn’t mean we haven’t hurt them.
The second apology was insulting and added more damage to the original injury. It was a form letter or template; lacking specific details, accountability, remorse. The entire apology was devoid of emotion, personality, and completed dismissed the close relationship these two shared. There was no real acknowledgement of the harm caused. The apology invoked anger and a feeling of being further harmed and violated by this person. It caused more damage than had already been caused. It’s a great example of how no apology would have been better than this fake one.
The person involved felt insulted, invalidated, disrespected, and harmed. It further damaged the feelings towards the person.
Just because a person says they are sorry, it doesn’t mean they are sorry.
An authentic apology requires bravery. We have to courageously put aside our own feelings of shame, pride, embarrassment, guilt, and hurt. Almost every time we’ve hurt someone, it’s been unintentional. That isn’t the point. The power of an apology comes in the form of authentic acknowledgement. This is what we all want when we feel we’ve been harmed. And, when we own what we’ve done – unintentional or not – and bring ourselves humbly to another in true forgiveness, powerful change can occur.
We think the words, “I’m sorry” are enough to right a wrong, but they aren’t. Forced and fake apologies can do more harm than no apology at all.
I challenge you to be brave when you feel you’ve done something to another. It shows great character to be brave and apologize. It is an opportunity to learn and grow in ourselves and in relation to others. And, when we do, we strengthen our relationships.