The Life Changing Magic of Saying “I’m Sorry”
Most people avoid apologizing for anything to anyone. I’d say it’s a pride thing. Knowing how to apologize and being able to do it effectively can literally change your relationships and your life. How many situations have gotten way out of control when a simple, “I’m sorry” would have nipped it in the bud? Or how many relationships have ended for good when an apology could have kept things in tact?
Transforming from a caterpillar to a butterfly is all about growing into the person you need to be in order to live the life you want to live. If you’re honest with yourself, your stubbornness and reluctance to apologize has cost you some things. Or maybe you’re on the verge of losing something right now and you’re smart enough to know an apology could give you a fighting chance to keep it. Maybe that’s why you’re here.
When I was in college my two best friends went to Miami without me. The problem is that they lied about it. They both said they were going different places. When spring break was over we were sitting in their dorm room catching up. They were roommates. As I was listening to them tell their stories and the backtracking they were doing I realized they had lied. I started asking pointed questions. “What did you do in Statesboro?” (Where one had supposedly went). She was stumbling because she didn’t go to Statesboro. They went to Miami together. I was really agitated about it. That lie ended our friendship.
“Never forget the nine most important words of any family- I love you. You are beautiful. Please forgive me.” – H. Jackson Brown Jr.
Well not the lie exactly. The fact that they acted like I did something wrong ended the friendship. I don’t know why I wasn’t invited. Maybe the person they road with didn’t have room for me in their car. Maybe they didn’t feel comfortable asking. Maybe I wouldn’t have had a place to stay. Who knows?
What I do know is that no one likes being lied to especially by your friends. It’s a sign of disrespect and apathy. When you apologize after you’ve offended someone you’re conveying the message that you care. When you refuse to apologize or even acknowledge how your words or behavior made the other person feel you’re sending the message that you don’t care.
Why do you want people that you care about to believe you don’t care about them?! This is what drives a wedge between people more than anything. There’s often a confusion on the part of the offended of “Why don’t you care about me?” Wrestling with the perception that someone you loved didn’t care about your feelings makes it difficult to continue on in the relationship the same way as before.
“An apology is a lovely perfume; it can transform the clumsiest moment into a gracious gift.” – Margaret Lee Runbeck
“I said what I said.”
I was texting back and forth with a boyfriend in the midst of a breakup. I hadn’t been happy for months and my grievances weren’t being addressed. Nothing was improving. But I still had hope we could make it work. That is until he uttered those five words. “I said what I said” as in “I don’t care how it made you feel”. As in “I don’t care if I went too far. I said it and I’m not apologizing.”
And he did go too far. He past the point of no return because he didn’t care. And I like to date people who care about me.
When you treated a friend or loved in a manner that can be perceived as disrespectful you put them in a compromising situation with themselves. What does it say about me to allow my friends to lie to me and then get mad at me for finding out? How must I feel about myself to let him talk to me that way? It becomes a matter of self-worth. There’s a reassurance to self that I deserve better.
When you apologize you are essentially agreeing that the other person does deserve better than what you gave at that moment. When you withhold an apology you’re implying that they don’t deserve better. They deserved what they got. It becomes impossible to keep the relationship going without compromising their own self worth.
“Apologizing does not always mean you’re wrong and the other person is right. It just means you value your relationship more than your ego.” – Mark Matthews
Everybody’s different so you’re going to offend people even when you don’t mean to. Everyone has their hangups, insecurities, and pridefulness. Mishaps happen but if you want to make the best of your relationships you have to learn how to apologize.
How to Apologize
Simply say “I’m sorry.”
Write a letter or note if you struggle with saying the words verbally.
Leave out the excuses and “ifs” (as in “if” I offended you…there’s no if.)
Apologize in a timely manner. Putting it off can create more discord or prolong reconciliation.
Back it up with actions. Don’t apologize for something and keep repeating the offense. If you’re truly sorry your behavior should reflect that.
Be sincere. Remember you’re not necessarily saying you did something wrong. You’re saying that you care about the other person and you care about how they feel.
“Repentance is good for the soul; apologize for anything you have done to hurt someone else.” – Brian Tracy
When to Apologize
You’ve made a mistake.
You’ve hurt someone’s feelings.
You’ve dishonored or disrespected someone.
You lashed out at someone.
You’ve offended someone.
You’ve backed out on a commitment or otherwise left someone hanging.
You’ve neglected something or someone.
You want to save a relationship.
You care about the other person.
You were wrong and you’re adult enough to admit it.
You’ve internalized guilt around a situation in which case apologizing can bring you peace.
Why Not Apologize
You don’t really mean it.
You’re not going to do anything different going forward.
You have an excuse or retaliation (“I’m sorry but you did…”)
You’re asking for something (“I’m sorry can you repeat that?”)
“A sincere apology has three parts: I am sorry. It’s my fault. What can I do to make it right?”
Benefits of Saying I’m Sorry
Apologizing isn’t just good for your relationships. It can be good for your health as well. According to an article on WebMD, blood pressure, anxiety and heart rate can be improved with an apology. Not just for the receiver, but also for the giver of the apology.
Apologizing can improve self esteem and self worth. What we do and say is a reflection of who we are. Yet everyone doesn’t understand that. If you lash out at someone or cheat on a spouse there’s a good chance that they will internalize your behavior. They will believe there’s something wrong with them. When you apology you free the person from their self defeating thoughts. In a small way you can help rebuild their self esteem by letting them know it wasn’t about them. It’s about you.
This can be especially true for children. If their parents curse at them or get easily angered with them the child might think, “If I was only a better child.” They can carry the feeling of not being good enough around for years. But if a parent apologize and acknowledges their behavior has nothing to do with the child the child can develop a healthier self esteem.
It strengthens your character and builds your confidence. Your character is made of your “mental and moral” qualities. How you treat people says something about you. How you treat people after mishaps also says something about you. When you apologize sincerely it helps shape your moral qualities. It shows you care.
A lot of people won’t apologize because they lack the confidence to do so. They feel inferior or insecure having to utter those three magically words. You build your confidence by doing the things you don’t have the confidence to do. As you build your confidence in one area it helps you build your confidence in another area of your life as well.
Apologizing can be freeing. You can provide (and receive) a sense of closure. It can free you from regret. It can free you from feelings of failure or not being good enough. If you want to make the best of your life and your relationships don’t hold back your apologies. Apologize sincerely and often.
“Sometimes a genuine apology, a simple heart felt ‘I am sorry’ can change everything and start to mend the deepest wounds.”