Apologizing with Love

Love Never Fails by Shattered Infinity, on Flickr

Apologies are tricky things.

Apologies are always to be meant, never to be falsified, and sometimes done more out of love or respect than a willingness to admit wrongs. Sustaining relationships, whether romantic, platonic, or familial, means often humbling yourself to the basic nature of love itself. Love is kind. Love is patient. Love is not easily angered and quick to forgive. Love is caring and protecting.

Think back to the last time you hurt someone. What do you remember? Were you right or were you wrong? Don’t be surprised if you can’t quite recall — you are not alone. But let me ask you this: did you hurt feelings? Exchange words you didn’t mean? Did you cause someone pain unnecessarily? Much easier to remember, right?

Apologizing after making a mistake is easy once we realize that we’ve wronged someone. Usually we feel genuinely sorry and want to repent for our errors. Apologizing after an argument, though, now that’s hard. We as humans tend to get caught up in our egos and desire to be right. It’s only natural. Wanting to be right, instinctively, can’t be helped. But, we can change the way we view the situation or argument as a whole, and how we handle it afterwards.

Take this situation, for example:

Your friend calls you up and asks why you aren’t at a restaurant downtown to have lunch with her. You voice your confusion. You tell her you had both agreed on next week and that she had gotten the day wrong. She disagrees and is frustrated she is having to dine alone and made the trip without reason. You get angry at her for blaming you, because you know you are right. You accuse her of being forgetful and, upset, hang up the call.

Now you are angry and your friend is feeling hurt. What to do? You have two options:

  1. Remain angry. Wait for her to call back and apologize for suggesting you were wrong.
  2. Call her back and apologize for getting upset. Reschedule the lunch.

Which sounds like the more loving and caring option? Which one will make you more happy in the end? Staying mad or reaching out? Chances are, your heart will make the right choice, if you let it. In the long run, being right is highly overrated. 

“Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.” — Marie Von Ebner-Eschenbach

What is remembered more often and is usually more important at the end of the day is how you treated a friend, family member, or partner. When you next find yourself in a heated situation, stop and think for a moment: are they hurting right now? Do I want to hurt them? If your answer is no, take the first step towards making up for these unintended actions by apologizing for causing pain. Something as small as an “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings” is usually met with great appreciation by the receiver.

I feel like this is an important point that I cannot stress enough: you don’t have to admit you were wrong if you don’t honestly believe you were wrong. Apologizing with love is never about “giving in”. The argument may continue. It’s never about determining the winner or loser of the disagreement.  Rather, the kind of apology I’m talking about refers to genuinely feeling bad about hurting the other person’s feelings or upsetting them, and offering up at least an indication of remorse for doing so. You can still love someone and show them love while believing they are wrong or disagreeing with them. Voicing your regrets about contributing to the situation is just a way to show that, despite your differences and despite the argument, you still care about them and their feelings.

A sincere apology for causing hurt or pain is a simple, yet effective way of showing your loved ones your affection. It demonstrates humility, respect, and an intense level of caring, and is usually the best way to diffuse a heated situation. So go ahead, take the plunge. Do it for kindness. Do it for love.

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