How to apologize

Watching children work through apologizing provides a great learning tool for adults. Adults master their emotions better, but often the raw contempt of a child apologizing is brewing under the surface. This author observed her niece and nephew in the heat of sibling rivalry. Contemptuously the sister spits out the word “sorry” to her brother who she owed an apology to. The attempt to apologize failed miserably and the child needed coaching to properly make amends. Not only did she need to lose the rebellious attitude in the delivery of her impetuous apology, she needed to know how to apologize in a way that would best serve her throughout her life. Watching this scene play out provided inspiration for instruction on apologizing. 

Sincerity 

First, if she was going to apologize, she needed to mean it. It needed to come from the heart and not from being forced to say it. It needed to reflect the repentance of her heart or else it held no meaning no matter however sweetly it was rendered. Taking the time to cool down and truly feel that a wrong had been committed and realizing that an apology is owed is a necessary first step. 

Upon being ready to proceed with the apology she needed to know that she needed to look her brother in the eye and sincerely tell him she was sorry. She needed to also tell him why. Otherwise it is not known if she is apologizing for being caught or for his feeling that she did something untoward to him, or for her truly acknowledging her wrong action or heart towards him and repenting accordingly. Thus, her apology should go something like this, “I’m sorry, I called you a name and hurt your feelings.” 

Forgiveness 

Then she needs to take it a step further to bring closure to the incident. The next step is to ask for forgiveness. Thus she would say in full, “I’m sorry, I called you a name and hurt your feelings. Will you forgive me?”  Forgiveness is something that requires the other to not blow off the apology and continue in hurt feelings. Asking for forgiveness asks for the other to truly let go of the right to be hurt and angry and allow for a healing of the offense to take place in both persons. 

Should the other person refuse to forgive, the repentant offender has done the best they can. Maybe they can approach the other again when the offense is not so fresh in his mind. But their job is then to forgive the other for not forgiving them, making sure not to hold onto anything against the other that would hurt both of them in the long run. 

Keeping it simple 

This is a simple example able that can explain this process to a child, but it is also very applicable to adults. Sometimes something so simple can become so complex when we look at it without the eyes of a child. A child’s heart can forgive faster than an adult’s heart more times than not. Let us be like little children in this matter and forgive the offenses of others. Let our child-likeness not be the contemptuous apology of “sorry” spit out like a vile word, but let it flow from a repentant heart as if being said from the sweet lips of a child.