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Live Intentionally, Die Empty

There’s a running joke on the show, Curb Your Enthusiasm where Larry David has to apologize to someone for something stupid that he’s done. His wife yells, “You’re going to have to apologize Larry!” to which he replies that he is always apologizing and is an expert. I feel like that sometimes. I do a lot of apologizing. Not the annoying kind though that reeks of insincerity. I worked with a guy who constantly apologized. “Oh, I’m sorry to interrupt you,” and “Sorry David, can I borrow a pencil? I’m so sorry to ask you that” ad nauseum. But I do apologize whenever it’s appropriate and it’s often appropriate to when you’ve wrong someone. It’s better to apologize rather than to let things linger.

There is a famous Welsh revivalist in the early 1900s who would like to ask people, “When was the last time you apologized?” He believed that if the last apology was a long time ago that something must be wrong because it is inconceivable that a person could live a very long period of time without offending someone. More than that he felt that it’s worse (and sometimes more likely) that people get into the habit of offending others without being conscious of it, thus proving sometthing is wrong with your conscience. Perhaps if you fall into that category you are void of sensitivity.

I tend to agree with Evan Roberts. Any time I have an argument, say curt words, or step out of good character towards a person I get a bit convicted over it inside and feel the need to apologize. And I do. Even when it’s uncomfortable to do so. And it usually is, which is probably why people fail to do.

So how to apologize:

1. Realize you have offended someone and own your wrongdoing: This is probably the biggest part of apologizing. It will take some real mind renewal and self-honesty. You have to get into the habit of putting yourself in the other person’s shoes. People don’t get upset with you for no reason. If you find yourself in an argument and you believe that you are right, you may be still wrong in some area otherwise you wouldn’t be arguing. Find out what part you played in being wrong even if it’s just saying for example “When we were arguing, I shouldn’t have said that I can’t stand the sound of your voice, that had nothing to do with what we were talking about and I know that may have set you off.”

Sometimes your offending someone does not lead to an argument. This is where general sensitivity and concern for others comes into play. Be aware of your motives. If you have done something wrong towards a person or said something hurtful that you should not have said, you need to recognize that and apologize. The fact that you recognize it and own your part will go a long way with the person.

2. Say What You Did:  Don’t just come out and say “Look, I’m sorry” and be done. Even if it seems obvious why you are apologizing, say exactly what you are apologizing about. That is why step 1 above is important. Otherwise it seems like a superficial apology and nobody likes to be pacified.

3. Explain Why You Did It Or Say It: This is where self-honesty comes in. If you were in the heat of an argument and you made a statement for the whole purpose of pushing a person’s button, then say that. Or if you said or did what you did based on some sort of misunderstanding on your part, then let the person know your thought process and how it probably led to the offense. Sometimes it’s an ugly truth. It might lead to deeper and hurtful discussion, but the honesty and transparency will help smooth the problem over. It shows that you judged what you did as wrong.

4. Say I’m sorry: Don’t forget to actually apologize

5. Allow the Person to Vent if They Need To: You hurt them. They may want an opportunity to let you know how what you did made them feel. Don’t let this cause another argument. Be understanding. If it were you in their shoes you may also want a chance to vent. Remember, when you offended them they may not have gotten a chance.

6. Don’t Expect Them To Always Welcome You Back With Open Arms: Sometimes when we offend it is one-sided, often times it is two sided. When it’s two-sided, don’t expect an apology from them just because they apologized to them. Although I feel when it’s a two sided offense (like an argument) when one person comes clean it’s a perfect time for the other person to clear the air as well, often times that’s just not going to happen. Sometimes that person just didn’t take the time to consider their own wrongdoing in the situation. So don’t expect it. Disappointment is what happens when you expect what you don’t have a right to expect and the expectation is not fulfilled. You may pour your guts out in the apology and they may just say, “Ok.” Don’t let it derail you. You have cleared your conscience. And salvaged the relationship.

(Also know that if your offense was egregrious, don’t expect to be welcomed back with open arms – at least not right away. Just take comfort in the fact that you did the right thing and can sleep at night.)

Now, when was the last time you apologized?


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