5 Ways to Say “I’m Sorry”

Dr. Lerner said in a recent New York Times article that “I’m sorry” are the two most healing words in the English language. These two words can be difficult to say but soothing to hear. Apologies require courage, humility and maturity.

Today I am going to share five different ways to say “I’m sorry”.

Similar to the 5 love languages, individuals have a preference on the type of apology they want to hear. Learn what will speak heartfelt sincerity and genuine remorse to the offended party and hurt person.

We are bound to hurt and disappoint each other at some point. Two sinners in a relationship will fall short of meeting the other’s expectations. Even if you are crazy, wildly in love there will come a point in time when the words “I’m sorry” will be required.

But not all apologies are created equal!

It is important to confess, repent and apologize. Ignoring the hurt, suppressing the emotions and dismissing the actions is not helpful or healthy.

Blake and I had an opportunity to put this into practice recently. It was a perfect storm scenario.

Like we have done many times before, we were planning to meet for dinner after work. I had an absolutely stressful day and was looking forward to spending quality time with my man. Yet Blake also had a crazy day at work with a deadline looming over the horizon. That afternoon his coworker had to leave due to a family emergency. This put more pressure on him and increased his work load. He ended up canceling our date that night and working until 10:00pm.

I know that the situation was out of his control and he did the right thing by being a team player to get the project completed before the deadline due date. But I was already frazzled from my own demands at work. In my stressed, low emotional state I didn’t respond with understanding, care or support. Instead, I felt hurt that he did not keep his committed plans with me and was disappointed that we would not spend time together.

In a past relationship my ex-boyfriend would spontaneously cancel plans on me because something “better” came up. If we had plans for a date but his buddies asked him to hang out he would choose to spend time with them over me.

The message canceled plans send to me is “You are not important”, “You do not matter to me” and “You are not a priority to me”.

So, when Blake canceled our plans it triggered my defense mechanism. The above messages rang loud and clear in my ears. My walls came up to avoid getting hurt even more. I thought about running away before I could be abandoned. “Get out before you get hurt” my mind was screaming. Blake’s reassuring words calmed me down when he said “I hope you know that I’m not giving up on us and I hope you don’t either”.

We still had to acknowledge the hurt, discuss our disappointment and re-evaluate our expectations. This was an opportunity to practice apologizing and learn our primary apology language.

There are 5 Languages of Apology according to Gary Chapman (who also wrote the 5 Love Languages)

Express Regret

Say “I’m sorry” and what you are sorry for. The hurt person wants to know if you understand how your behavior deeply hurt them.

Accept Responsibility

Say “I was wrong” and then explain what was wrong about your actions. The hurt person wants you to be willing to accept responsibility for what you said or did and acknowledge that it was wrong.

Make Restitution

Say “I’m sorry. How can I make it up to you?” The hurt person wants to know if you still love them.

Request Forgiveness

Say “I’m sorry. Will you please forgive me?” The hurt person wants you to recognize the offense and ask to be forgiven.

Change Behavior

Actions speak louder than words. The hurt person wants to find a plan to keep the bad behavior from reoccuring.

My dominant language of apology is to express regret. In the recent scenario, I wanted Blake to understand and acknowledge that when plans are canceled (even for a legitimate reason) it hurts me. To change the behavior that caused the hurt in the first place is speaking Blake’s primary language of apology. Now that we know each other’s language of apology we will work on becoming fluent in that language. I know as we continue to move forward in our relationship there will be many opportunities to speak fluently in each other’s apology language!

Apologizing is a necessary part of a healthy relationship. Saying “I’m sorry” is not a sign of weakness but strength! Jane Brody shares that “A sincere apology can be powerful medicine with surprising value for the giver as well as the recipient”

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Remember, you are not responsible for the other person’s reaction. You can only control your own thoughts, words and behavior. The other may not forgive right away (especially if the trust was severely broken).

Maybe you have someone you need to apologize to. If so, what method of apology would speak best to their heart from the list above? Expressing regret, accepting responsibility, making restitution, requesting forgiveness or changing behavior?

I pray that as you live in refined relationships with others you will have the courage, humility, wisdom and maturity to utter the words “I’m sorry” with authenticity and sincerity. As Christians we have been forgiven a great debt and given a great gift of eternal life. With that in mind, I hope you find it in your heart to find the strength to apologize and offer forgiveness often.

Leave a comment with your apology language!

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