(This post is from a workshop that I led for married couples based on “The Five Languages of Apology” shown to the left, by Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas. I highly recommend this book! A lot of the information below is from this book. “The Five Love Languages“, which I wrote about on a previous post, is another great read!)
According to the old sappy move Love Story, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Err…What?? I don’t think so! I believe that love means saying you’re sorry over and over again. However, to be effective, we need to learn the language of apology that our spouse speaks.
To find out your Apology Language, click here to take the profile.
Language #1: Expressing Regret “I’m truly sorry”
- Most people want a sincere apology—what does sincere look like to you?
- Expressing regret is the emotional aspect of an apology—what pain did it cause you to have?
- Check on your body language
- Avoid the “but…” (When you apologize with a ‘but’ it’s not a real apology)
- Don’t apologize to manipulate
- Regret focuses on dealing with one’s own behavior and expressing empathy for the one you have hurt
- Write a letter of apology
Sample statements of regret:
- “I really feel bad that I disappointed you. I should have been more thoughtful. I hate that I caused you so much pain.”
- “I’m sorry I violated your trust. I know I’ve put some walls up now in our relationship, but I don’t want them to be there. I know it might take you awhile to trust me again.”
Language #2: Accepting Responsibility “I know I was wrong”
- Admitting wrongdoing is tied to self-worth
- It’s not my fault: Learn to admit your mistakes
- Agree/Disagree—“I agree that I have a right to feel hurt and angry. I don’t choose these feelings, they just happen. I disagree with the idea that because of these hurt feelings, I have the right to hurt someone else.
- “All of us make mistakes. But the only mistake that will destroy you is the one you are unwilling to admit.”
Sample statements of accepting responsibility:
- “I know what I did was wrong. I know I could make excuses, but there aren’t any. The truth is I was being selfish.”
- “I repeated a mistake that I know we have already talked about. I messed up and I know it’s my fault.”
Language #3: Making Restitution “What can I do to make it right?”
- Paying your debt to the one you have wronged
- Many ask, “How can they love me and do that?”
- “The heart of restitution is reassuring your spouse that you genuinely love him/her. It is essential to express restitution in their love language.” What’s your language?
o Five love languages (Check out my previous post on love languages here)
- Words of Affirmation
- Acts of Service
- Receiving Gifts
- Quality Time
- Physical Touch
Sample statements of making restitution:
- “Is there anything I can do to make up for what I’ve done?”
- “I know I hurt you deeply and I want to make up for it in some way. What would you like me to do?”
Language #4: Genuinely Repenting “I’ll try not to do that again”
- Repentance—“to turn around” or “to change one’s mind”
- It begins with an expression of intent to change
- Important!! Even though the person said that they intend to change, we need to remember no one is perfect. Many times, spouses fail and it takes multiple attempts.
- The idea that change is only in order when we do something morally wrong is erroneous. A healthy marriage might need change to create harmony.
- A plan for change (be specific and share with your spouse)
- Implement the plan and put it in writing
- If you fail, acknowledge the failure before the offended spouse confronts you
Sample statements of genuine repentance:
- “How could I say that in another way that would not come across as critical?”
- “I really want to change to make us happier. I know it’s not going to be perfect, but maybe you could help me when I revert to my old ways. We could have a code word that you could say to help me.”
Language #5: Requesting Forgiveness “Will you please forgive me?”
Why seek forgiveness?
- It indicates that you want the relationship restored
- It shows you realize you have done wrong
- It shows you are putting the future of the relationship in the others hands
Why is it so hard?
- Requesting forgiveness can be difficult—fear of losing control
- Fear of rejection
- Fear of failure
Remember forgiveness is a choice and it might take time
Why is it hard to forgive?
- It may require the forgiver to give up the quest for justice
- The forgiver may need to forgive consequences that are long-lasting
- The forgiver may have difficulty if the offense is repeated or major
Be patient—speak their love language and try to change the behavior
Sample statements of requesting forgiveness
- “I’m sorry for the way I spoke to you. It was mean and harsh and I shouldn’t have done that. Will you please forgive me?”
- “I didn’t mean to hurt you, but I obviously did. I was trying to be fun, but I know my actions were wrong. I’m going to try not to do it again. Will you please forgive me?”
A few things to keep in mind:
o Husbands and wives usually speak different apology languages
o You can have more than one apology language
o The more languages you use in your apology, the more effective it is
o What do I expect the person to say or do?
o What hurts me most about this situation?
o What language is most important when I apologize?
Why don’t people apologize?
o It’s not worth the effort
o It was his/her fault
o Low self esteem
Verses on forgiveness:
o Ephesians 4:32
o 1 John 1:9
o Romans 3:23
o Matthew 6:14-15
o Luke 6:36-37
Believe me, apologizing is not an easy task. I constantly fight my stubborn pride when it comes to saying I’m sorry and admitting that I’m wrong, but in the end, the peace and resolution that it brings is always worth it in the end.
Do you have any apology tips? Please share below in the comments!