Can we be accountable and responsible for the errors we make?
True apologies are a gift we can give to the people in our lives because:
- It releases that person from thinking “How can they do this to me?”
- When we hurt others, it is inevitable that they spend time wondering why and what they did to cause it. So when we offer sincere apologies we give them an opportunity to release their angst around the issue.
- It makes them feel safe. They can know that their feelings are important to us.
- It validates their reality. They can know that their feelings are real.
- It heals the disconnection after we’ve messed up.
- The hardest conversation I’ve had in a long time was when someone that I love dearly had the courage to say to me, “You hurt my feelings.”
Because I’d been prepping for the message on apologies, I knew that “You hurt my feelings” were trigger words for us to immediately go on the defensive. None of us want to hurt other people. So when we realize we’ve hurt someone we care about, we immediately start thinking about what we are going to say and how we are going to react instead of just being willing to listen.
In fact, I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying, “No, I didn’t. I didn’t do that or say that.”
I needed to listen.
One of the arts of a true apology is first, being able to listen to what it is that we’ve said or done that has brought pain to the other person.
Then, per Harriet Lerner, we need to:
- Keep the focus on OUR actions and not on the other person’s response. We should own our behavior and apologize for it, period.
- Not overdo it, either. Once we’ve apologized SINCERELY, we need to let it go. If we go ON and ON and ON about it (like I sometimes do) we end up making it all about us. That isn’t fair to the person we are apologizing to.
- Doesn’t worry about who is to blame or who started it.
- Back up our apology by corrective action! Our actions need to change – else the words are empty. Try to avoid a repeat performance!
- Don’t give an apology just to shut the other person up. Don’t apologize just to silence them. Be willing to own what we’ve done wrong.
- If the other person doesn’t want to hear from us, then we need to suck it up and don’t contact them. Just because we need to heal doesn’t mean we should offer the apology to make ourselves feel better. Sometimes it risks making the other person feel worse.
- A true apology recognizes when the words, “I’m sorry” isn’t enough. Serious hurt or betrayal requires time to restore trust. Give it space and time and a change of action.
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
You are reading a Musing Meditation by Andrea Smith, Pastor, West Church, Lake Norman, Mooresville, NC.