I’m walking through how to make an effective apology. We are imagining that I have betrayed you, my reader, and asking; what do you need from me to set things right?
So far I’ve mentioned two steps:
- Admit the Offense
- Express Sorrow
Is that enough? Are we good? Not quite. The apology actually needs one more thing; to ask forgiveness.
How to be Forgiven: Ask Forgiveness
Forgiveness is often assumed in an apology but on the bigger offenses it’s important to be explicit. Look the other person in the eye and ask, “Will you forgive me?” and then be quiet. Don’t dilute the question by rattling on for five minutes. Just ask the question and wait for the response.
Typically we don’t do that. What we say is that we are sorry and assume that forgiveness is granted. We say, “I’m sorry”. Or we might add, “I hope you can forgive me.” Sometimes people let us off the hook and say, “I forgive you”. That’s always nice because they offered it without us having to ask for it.
But sometimes they simply nod and say nothing and we let the question of forgiveness hang in the air. We never know if they forgave us or not and that’s not good. We need to ask the question and our friend needs to answer it so we can have closure. You both need to know the status of the relationship. No one should assume anything.
How to be Forgiven: Humility Helps
Do you know why we don’t ask for forgiveness? It’s too humbling. It’s like kneeling before your friend and laying the relationship at their feet and saying…You have the power to let this relationship live or die. I messed up. I no longer have the power in the relationship. You do.
In ancient times kings had the power of the sword. If you came into the presence of a king they had the right to kill you on the spot if they didn’t like you. They had all the power in the relationship.
It’s the same way when I ask your forgiveness. I yield power to you. But most of us are too proud to humble ourselves like that. We are too fearful that the other person will reject us so we hedge by just saying “I’m sorry”. But humility is exactly what you are looking for if I’ve offended you, isn’t it? Admitting the offense shows honesty. Expressing sorrow shows empathy. And asking forgiveness shows humility. Each of these are essential to rebuilding trust after an offense. But there is one more step that remains.
Come back for part four of this series. In the meantime “share the knowledge” by clicking below and subscribe to this blog (in the right column) and receive a sample of STUCK…how to mend and move on from broken relationships.
- Defining Forgiveness series starts here.
- How to Forgive series starts here.
- How to BE Forgiven starts here.
- Explore the book: Healing the Hurts of Your Past