Have you ever been so angry with your husband that even though you knew you had to say “I’m sorry,” you just couldn’t get it out? You can still replay that conversation you had with your stubborn alter-ego inside of you insisting that he’s the one who owes you an apology, not the other way around. I recently went through something like this, and it was then that I resented having heard a message at a church conference once while I was still in college. It was that message about spitting out a proper apology that sent people talking, exclaiming, amazed at the simplicity and truth of it all.
Well, that day stuck with me and now I have some preacher’s voice in my head every time I have a fight telling me what I gotta do to make it right.
Swallow your pride
Most people will tell you, moms especially, that the first thing you have to do is utter the words, “I’m sorry.” This is why we end up saying these two words (or three depending on your compound preferences) without seeing much of a change either in the situation, our anger and why the other person might not be forgiving us completely.
The very first step is to swallow your pride. There is no possible way to make a proper apology if your face is conveying any other emotion other than remorse. You’ve said your sorry out of obligation but your face is angry, your lips are pursed, your eyes are averted you can forget a happy ending.
I want to tell you a secret. I want to tell you why when you suck it up and really say you’re sorry, you are exhibiting pure strength. You are declaring to your emotions that you are in control, not them. Your anger, hurt and pride don’t govern your actions, your life or your relationships. When you are stronger than your emotions, you can fairly boast that you are some type of super human.
The words “I’m sorry” are powerful to both the soul and the psyche. When you say I’m sorry, you are tell the other person that you care deeply for them, that they are important enough for you to take the risk of exposing your faults. This is a vulnerable feeling! These words are proof that you are putting their needs before yours. Remind yourself when you want to chicken out that you are being a mature grown up by taking responsibility for being a jerk, even if the other person won’t.
If you are saying you’re sorry out of obligation, your spouse (or whoever) will see right through you. Your reasons for apologizing should always stem from actual remorse, not from getting caught or being backed into it. If you are not actually sorry, save your apology for when you are. If you say what you don’t mean, you’re not going to have a happy ending.
Finish your sentence with the transition word because. “I’m sorry because… [I made fun of your spoon collection].” Acknowledge that you know that what you did hurt their feelings, made them angry or embarrassed them. Empathy is the only thing that separates us from the curse of self-obsession.
Some things are un-fixable. Name calling for example is something that you can’t undo. Once the word leaves your mouth you can’t make your husband un-hear it, and what’s worse is you can’t convince him you don’t really think he’s a jerk. Besides name calling says more about you than it does about him.
For the things that you can fix – like a broken window, telling the truth or discussing the matter with a better attitude – you have to fix it. Make amends any way you can think of.
Ask for forgiveness
Finally, under no circumstances leave out the pearl of the apology: Will you forgive me? This is the final breath of the apology that lifts the responsibility of the offense off of your shoulders and places the outcome in the other person’s hands. Another vulnerable position to put yourself in, but when you hear that person tell you that you are forgiven, the relationship becomes stronger. With each apology and forgiveness, your marriage becomes more and more impenetrable.
On the flip side
Just a quick note to say, if someone asks you for forgiveness, the correct response is not “it’s okay.” It is “I forgive you!”