“I am sorry.”
These three words hold a lot of potential for healing, but are all apologies created equal?
No, definitely not.
Apologies vary in effectiveness depending on the level of maturity behind them.
The first level of apology is the most immature. It’s the sarcastic, “Sorr-ee” that has very little to do with your own personal remorse, contrition, or connection.
Sometimes your most immature level of apology sounds something like, “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Or , “I’m sorry you did that." At this level, it’s not really an apology, but a poorly disguised statement of blame. You take no responsibility, but rather put all the blame on the other person you’re supposedly apologizing to.
Have you ever used this form of apology? Did anyone feel better afterwards? Did it foster connection of any kind?
The second level of apology is slightly more mature, and is perhaps the most common. This level of apology is legitimately coming from a place of remorse, guilt, and regret. You truly feel bad for what you did.
So where is the lack of maturity?
To be blunt, this form of apology is done selfishly. It’s asking for forgiveness so that you feel better about yourself. It is like bringing your empty cup to someone and asking them to fill it for you. It’s where you’ve hinged your self-worth on someone else and put the responsibility on them. It’s an apology, not to help the other person feel better, but to make you feel better about yourself.
Where do you use this form of apology? Can you see how it is selfish in a really sneaky way? It’s ok, we all do it. I’m not sharing this with you so you can beat yourself up more, but so that we can find a way higher, and deeper, to more mature apologies and deeper connections.
The third level of apology is the most mature. This is where you ask for forgiveness AFTER you’ve forgiven yourself - not SO THAT you can forgive yourself. It’s in this mature apology that you sincerely regret your actions, but your self-worth doesn’t depend on the other person forgiving you.
Let’s explore these three levels of apology with an example. Let’s say you inadvertently did something rude to someone else and they expressed to you that their feelings were hurt.
Apology 1: Sorry you feel that way, but I didn’t do it on purpose and so it’s your fault you feel hurt.
Motivation for apology: to avoid responsibility and resulting pain to my ego.
Apology 2: I’m so sorry. I’m a bad person and I need your forgiveness so that I feel better about myself.
Motivation for apology: to put a bandaid on my wounded ego.
Apology 3: I apologize for my behaviour. That was a thoughtless oversight on my part. Thank you for bringing this to my attention and sharing your feelings with me. I’ll be more mindful from now on.
Motivation for apology: to connect more deeply with the other person, to grow as a person beyond my ego.
Can you see how the third apology is the most mature? Can you see how it fosters responsibility, growth, and connection?
Here’s how to make a mature apology:
Who do you need to apologize to? How can you do it in the most mature way?
What level of maturity do you have when you ask God for forgiveness?
Here’s to Conquering Stress.
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