He shrugged his shoulders and said, “I’m sorry” with a smirk, which irritated me even more.
I knelt down next to my 6-year old and said, “I just don’t think you are really sorry about this. Your actions and response don’t seem genuine.”
Have you ever been there too? Where someone says, “I’m sorry” but doesn’t seem authentic about it? Or maybe they say, “I’m sorry, but…” and gives a long list of excuses that only deepens the wound?
I started thinking about this more, and figured out 5 more powerful ways to say “I’m sorry” that move toward full restoration:
1. Leave out the “but…”
I wanted to tell her “I’m sorry, but I didn’t do anything wrong!” Don’t say this. Even if you truly didn’t do something wrong and there was a miscommunication, leave this out initially and instead say something like, “I’m sorry that I hurt your feelings; it was not my intention,” or “I’m sorry that I left you hanging. I truly am.” When we insert the “but” to the “I’m sorry,” it can leave a feeling of being less genuine about the wrong doing. Like we are trying to justify why it is okay to hurt someone. Truth is: it’s never okay to hurt someone, but it happens. We are human. We make mistakes. And that’s why we need to know the time and place and ways to say the right thing so true restoration can be attained.
There will be a time and place to explain what really happened…later. But in the initial blow up, just say, “I’m sorry” without explaining yourself and focus on why and how you are sorry for hurting their feelings or wrecking their emotional tank. Even better, tell them how much you care about them and all the ways you appreciate them! Then once things have cooled off a bit, you can engage in a less heated conversation about the miscommunication or offense in a respectful way.
2. Extend forgiveness even when you are falsely accused.
The hardest thing I had to do was say “I’m sorry” to someone when it was totally unjustified. She thought I wrote a post about her, but I didn’t. It just happened to be coincidental timing with something she was doing at that time. And apparently, it struck a nerve and hit her in a way that felt like I was accusing her of something directly (even though I honestly had no idea). Although I continued to share with her that her accusations against me was false, she didn’t believe me. She was quite vehement toward me. Which quite honestly, made me feel like she deserved none of my respect or apologies.
But I knew in my heart God wanted me to extend forgiveness toward her despite the false accusations against me and ill-will towards me.
So, I simply had to say, “I’m sorry for hurting you; it was not my intention. I hope you will forgive me.” Unfortunately, I will never know if she forgave me or not. I don’t think she did. She never sought to repair the situation. But I do believe this was a more powerful approach to saying “I’m sorry” and has left me feeling good in the end that I took the respectful road and did everything I could to repair the situation, despite the incorrect charges against me.
3. Show don’t tell.
It never feels genuine until we can see actions followed by words. We can’t just say the words “I’m sorry” without demonstrating it in our actions; otherwise, it can seem ingenuous. So, when you’ve messed up, show them you are sorry. Take out the trash. Buy some flowers. Delete your apps. Agree to be home by a certain time and then stick with it. Whatever it is, seek to regain their trust by following through with appropriate actions.
4. Write a letter.
This is also an action, but it’s funny how a letter can go a long way toward restoring someone’s heart that has been wronged. Sometimes “I’m sorry” just doesn’t cut it, but a handwritten note, or a typed out letter about all the ways you care about the person or an acknowledgement of the person and his qualities are received far greater sometimes than a verbal response. It takes time and thought to write out a letter which goes a long way toward restoration. Plus, sometimes people are better at writing things down about how they are sorry instead of verbalizing it with words.
5. Ask to pray with them.
Often when my kids do something wrong and need to say “I’m sorry” we follow up with a word of prayer, asking God for forgiveness as well. This act of repentance is something we forget to do yet so important in order to restore both our hearts and theirs. It frees us from guilt and helps us to recommit to doing the right things instead.
I still remembered one time when my husband and I had a fight. We were both upset. But then, he took my hands and started praying out loud for restoration, forgiveness, and kindness to flow through us once again. It was amazing to see how quickly our hearts were softened, calmed; we were able to move past the offenses and cultivate true restoration in its wake.
What do you think? Do you have other more powerful ways to say “I’m sorry”? Was this helpful? Tell me in the comments below!
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