"He is being mean to me!"
"Did you hit him? Yes or No?"
"Yes," she poutingly admits.
"Then you need to apologize to him."
"Kaleigh, tell him you are sorry, now."
This is not atypical to what is bound to happen whenever my four year old daughter and her four year old cousin get together. And you have seen this unfold before too. You get on to your kid and have them apologize to their friend, cousin, or sibling, and they do. But do you ever notice they do not appear very sorry at all? In fact, their apology is begrudging. If words could smack the taste out of someone's mouth, that is what many of these apologies amount to.
We somewhat expect kids to do this. They don't want to apologize. They only do it because we make them. We just assume (or hope) they will one day learn to be genuine when they make mistakes. We tell ourselves they will mature and learn to take responsibility for their actions. They will learn to apologize when they wrong someone.
Fast forward the clocks.
We are those kids.
We suck at apologizing. In fact, some people have gone years without apologizng to those whom they have hurt. Many just wait for things to blow over or go away and then pretend like everything is normal. Others attempt to apologize, but when you investigate the apology, it isn't actually an apology.
Let me explain.
If you say something offensive to someone and it hurts their feelings, you should say to them, "I'm sorry I said that, it was wrong and hurtful. I apologize." That is an apology.
What you should not say is, "I'm sorry that you got your feelings hurt." This is not an apology. It is an effort to put responsibility on the person whose feelings were hurt, instead of your actions. You said something hurtful, but instead of owning it, you are shifting the blame on the other person. "I'm sorry that you got your feelings hurt," is making them to blame for the relational conflict or impasse. Interestingly, when the person who has been offended doesn't feel the apology was adequate or genuine (because it wasn't), the offender will say something like, "Well, I apologized, I don't know what it else you want me to do."
Beware. This can happen in your marriage, with your friends, with co-workers, with family members, and the list goes on. If we do not learn to truly apologize when we hurt others, it will damage these relationships and produce bitterness, resentment, and anger.
This is how many people approach "apologizing" these days. Not many are willing to take responsibility for their mistakes and missteps. I want to challenge us to learn to take responsibility for our actions. It is not an expectation that anyone will be perfect. So instead of refusing to take ownership of our faults and apologizing to those we hurt with them, let's be reminded we no longer have to maintain a front of perfection.
If there are people in your life today that you need to say "sorry" to or give an extensive apology, then do it. Just be sure your apology doesn't like the 4 year old doing what daddy told her to do.
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