An apology is more than words. It reflects a remorseful heart and can change your life. Almost magically, a sincere apology has the power to repair harm and mend relationships. This means not blaming anyone else or not making excuses for what you did. While you can’t undo the past, you can communicate regret and acknowledge any injustice you might have caused.
We say “Sorry but…” or “Sorry if I offended you.” These are not authentic apologies since they cleverly shift the conversation. Like it was not my failing, but your thin-skin. Most of us do not apologize at all. We wait for things to blow over. We try to make amends without offering an apology.
In the classic Iliad, after Agamemnon took Briseis from Achilles, he tried to appease Achilles’ wrath by offering to her along with great wealth. But in the words of Maimonides, “Someone who injures a colleague or damages his property does not attain atonement, even though he pays for what he owes, until he confesses.”
A simple apology has three components: name the offense, say you are sorry and ask for forgiveness. The effect can be remarkable. You will both likely go on to be closer than before. Your life will be happier if you cultivate repentance. When you apologize, you open the door for mercy and mercy brings peace.
So make it a habit to apologize. Most people gain some empathy and compassion during the process. Apologies, when sincere and intentional, can be extremely healing. Actual positive physical effects can be measured- blood pressure decreases, heart rate slows and breathing becomes more steady. Chose a path of love above pride. Choose a path which heals. Choose to apologize.
Jane Cox PhD, ARNP is Executive Director of NCH Community Home Care, a home health registry in Naples, FL. Her academic appointments include Instructor of Community Health for FGCU and Chair of the Doctorate in Nursing Science Advisory Council at Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, IN.