BREAKUPS don’t just happen in marriages that lost their way. Breakups also occur in all other type of relationships – that have about them some form of (usually unwritten) covenant, like the unsaid, “Never wrong me, please,” “Or speak to me about everything that links us, or you’ll hurt me.”
Sadly, relationship breakups occur all the time, because one party or both have been hurt once too often. What are in focus here are any relationships where we are pitted with another person for the ends of life – for friendship, for business, etc.
I’ll say it upfront. What we need to be armed with most of all, to the extension of health in all our relationships, is mastery of the not-so-common apology. I say apology is not-so-common because, whilst we might engage in making apologies, for many reasons they don’t meet the mark.
When Apology Meets the Mark
Firstly, let me say that I’m drawing off Dr. Gary Chapman’s fantastic work.
Secondly, I want to describe super briefly what the five languages of apology are, and then, thirdly, I want to wrap them all up into a process of apology, which we can take to be the actual hinge of relationship maintenance.
The five languages of apology are:
1. Expressing regret: “I am sorry” – when we speak this language there is a real sense of remorse. “I am sorry” is heartfelt and sincere. Some people speak this language with conviction and, for some people, it’s all they need to hear.
2. Accepting responsibility: “You know, I was wrong” – not only is there the words, but the acceptance of responsibility takes the process of apology somewhat deeper into the land of diligence and acknowledge culpability.
3. Making Restitution: “Now, that acknowledged, what can I do to put it right?” – remorse has convicted a sense of responsibility, which has in turn convicted a sense of wanting to change things to appease the person or situation. Making restitution is a powerful commitment toward owning apology for many people. Sometimes restitution can be so effectual it leads directly to restoration.
4. Actual and genuine repentance: “I’ll be trying my best never to do that again!” – ah, the offer of safety and the opportunity of trust. The person promising repentance knows they are on a wing and a prayer. They tread lightly, having been convicted by the Spirit in them to step differently from now on.
5. The request of forgiveness: “Will you please forgive me?” – so many apologies don’t reach this level of seeking the hurt parties’ forgiveness. Think about the power resplendent in someone that’s hurt us being vulnerable like this – when they are genuine.
The apology is the hinge of relationship maintenance. What is more compelling than this: “I am sorry. You know, I was wrong. Now, with that acknowledged, what can I do to put it right? I’ll be trying my best never to do that again, I can assure you! Will you please forgive me?” Think of the power for reconciliation and restoration in these words when backed up with action.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.