The Quickest Way to Ruin an Apology

Humility is hard.  I’m a pretty logical person and my strong conscience doesn’t let me get away with much. I typically know pretty quickly when I’ve said or done something I wrong.

That said, admitting my fault and asking forgiveness is a whole lot harder.  I don’t like being wrong.  Probably the only thing I dislike more than being wrong is admitting I was wrong to the person who was right, or even worse, the person that I hurt.

Humility is a funny thing.  It can be incredibly hard to admit our shortcomings to the person or people who are the quickest to extend grace. When we apologize and admit we’re wrong we are being vulnerable and admitting a weakness, while at the same time, showing the strength of our character.  Humility is a by-product of good character.

On the receiving end, when someone has wronged us and is seeking our forgiveness, it’s helpful to remember that it was probably very difficult for them to do this. An apology is much harder for some than it is for others.  Sure, just because they said they’re sorry doesn’t mean the sting is gone but acknowledging their humility by accepting their apology, without condition, not only helps in the healing process but shows them that you’re willing to forgive their shortcomings.  When they make a mistake in the future, they’ll be more likely to ask forgiveness instead of trying to save their pride.

The quickest way to ruin an apology and make someone less likely to seek forgiveness in the future is to belittle them with smart remarks or snide comments after they have apologized.  Sure what they did was wrong.  Yes it hurt you.  But apologizing is their recognition that what they did or said was wrong.  You don’t have to beat them into further submission with your words or snide remarks like, “good I hope you’re sorry” or “well you should be.”  Comments like those tend to come across as unloving and arrogant.  Like you care more about winning the argument than resolving the problem.

Their apology is their own admission that what they did was wrong.  Making sure they know how bad they hurt you isn’t necessarily going to prevent further offenses.  It will however, lesson their likelihood of them seeking forgiveness in the future.  Why would someone apologize for something when they know they’re just going to get beaten down and reminded of their failure?

If you’re on the receiving end of an apology, recognize that it took a lot of courage and humility on their part to admit they were wrong and ask your forgiveness.  I don’t know a single person that LIKES being wrong.  It’s not fun being wrong, especially if your words or actions left someone feeling hurt.

If you feel the need to further explain to them why they hurt you, do so in a constructive, loving way, keeping a tight reign on any non-verbal miscues you might be sending.  Deep sighs, piercing eyes or a condescending tone will only remind the person all the more of your apparent frustration and make them feel worse than they do.

Seeking forgiveness is their attempt at restoration.  Try to respond in a way that shows them you recognize their humility and the courage it took to apologize.  Grace is the best advocate of restoration, and restoration is what we should seek for every relationship. 

2 thoughts on “The Quickest Way to Ruin an Apology

  1. Jay VanValkenberg

    I'm guilty of this as well. In fact my wife prefaces her apologies sometimes with, "now this is where you don't say I told you so" before admitting her mistake. 🙂 Of course overusing the "I'm sorry" leads to it being easily dismissed and I see people do this too often as well.


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