This is a follow up to Never beg and never plead.
One of the most difficult thing to do well is apologies because you have to own what you are responsible for but also not take undue responsibility for what others actions were.
Note: To truly understand the full reasoning behind apologies please see my Apologies Part 2 article. This one is incomplete on its own. Read it after you have read this one.
Now, moving onto the article…
In most cases, the easiest the apologies are the ones where you totally wrong someone. In this case, what I wrote in the other article is what you should do:
This is straight forward and simple, and you can read the previous article by clicking on the link above for how to do that.
The hardest apologies involve actions where you both are at fault in some way, or even to where you are not at fault at all and it is their wrong that they are blaming on you.
I’ve struggled a lot with how to address this problem from these two perspectives because it is difficult. You don’t want to take responsibility for something that you didn’t do and rightly so. That is why many husbands are emasculated in their marriages.
However, God has been gracious enough to teach me these hard truths over the past couple months. Here are two simple Scriptural statements that should guide you through this process:
- Unity in the body of Christ is more important than what we may have against each other (1 Cor 1, Eph 4, Col 3, John 17, Psalm 133, 1 Peter 3).
- Turn the other cheek to non-Christians and enemies (Matt 5, Luke 6)
The true question becomes — is it more important to be right or is it more important to prioritize the things that God prioritizes?
Both of you are at fault
In the case where both of you are at fault, I’ve found the best way to approach this is to assume responsibility for what you did.
Sounds simple, right?
The problem however is also admitting that you may have misinterpreted their words and actions or that they have misinterpreted your words and actions. Thus, your words and actions may have been correct in some sense of the matter, but the other person took it the wrong way.
It is hard to admit that you need to apologize for someone else taking what you said the wrong way. Likewise, it is hard to admit that you should apologize for misinterpreting someone else’s actions.
The intentions may be the best, but misinpretation goes both ways, and it’s easy to do that in the heat of an argument or if the both of you are having difficulty explaining the side of your argument correctly.
From what I’ve experienced over the past few months just take responsible for what you have done including some or all of the below in your apology. It helps to categorize because you may see that there are more things that you have to apologize for that you initially thought.
- You to them: I want to apologize for any of the hurtful actions A, B, and C.
- Them to you + your response: When you said ___ I was hurt. I want to apologize for my poor response D, E, and F.
- You misinterpreted: I apologize because I misinpreted you and incorrectly responded in G, H, and I manner.
- They misinterpreted: I understand how my words came off as J, K, and L. It was not my intention to hurt you, and I didn’t mean say things that way. I apologize for this misunderstanding.
One of the biggest things to keep in mind in an apology is to specifically not talk about anything they may have done wrong. Chances are they know they likely know they have done something wrong. If you accuse them of anything then it will just put you right back where you started.
Likewise, don’t say “if” — I understand “if” my words came off as J, K, and L — and don’t taking about perceiving what they thought. Even small changes in how you phrase it may come off as accusative or insincere because they may easily believe that you don’t really believe their side of the story. The fact that they believe their side of the story should be enough for you to believe them.
The latter two are the most difficult because we know how we wanted to respond and we think we know what they were saying. But doing what is right and good matters more than the selfish pride involved with thinking that we were correct in these cases.
It’s not about being the better man or woman, but to see that there are misunderstandings and admitting your fault in a misunderstanding because it takes two to have a misunderstanding. It takes two to have an argument. It takes two for mutual strife.
They are at fault and blaming you
This is honestly the most difficult case because you don’t want to take responsibility for what happened because you didn’t do anything wrong.
I find that many people have the most trouble with this, especially if they are Christians, because they don’t want to lie and say it was their fault when it really wasn’t their fault. Of course, I don’t encourage anyone to lie about what they did or didn’t do.
So how do we solve this problem?
I think the answer lies in a thrust for unity and accepting that something you may have done may or may not have done led to such a misunderstanding. Even if you are unaware of such.
- I can see that you’re hurt. I want to apologize for any words or actions that may have led to this misunderstanding and conflict. I realize that there’s nothing I can do to make it up to you, but I’d like to reconcile if you are willing.
The point here is to be gracious here. A statement like this avoids saying the conflicts and blame were on you. However, because they believe that it and some of your possible words or actions may have led to a greater misunderstanding of the conflict I believe that you can apologize here for the hurt even if you were not in the wrong.
Consider such an apology as taking the blame on you just as Jesus obeyed the will of the Father to take our sins on Himself. If we can take the blame so as to reconcile relationships then it is worth it, especially if it is a clear witness to that person and others around us. We ask the Father to forgive our debts just as we forgive our debtors.
The overall thing to keep in mind here is that even the body of Christ has disagreements. Through the council they were able to resolve them in most cases. However, in some cases there was an inevitable splitting, although perhaps not on bad terms and ended up well.
Apologies are hard because they require humility and culling the pride within ourselves, but if we are able to master it then unity in the body of Christ will grow and our witness to non-believers will be stronger. And we will grow.
Note: To truly understand the full reasoning behind apologies please see my Apologies Part 2 article. This one is incomplete on its own.