How and When to Apologize

Apology Pick

Today we’re continuing in our series on forgiveness and reconciliation by addressing how and when to apologize. Click the link, 6 Steps to Effective Boundary Conversations, to read the previous post in this series.

After the first boundary conversation, let’s say it was accepted for the most part. In fact, this is the first of many boundary conversations you’ll need to have in an effort to see eye-to-eye and to reassess as you continue to relate over time—assessing the ways you’ll need to change and improve as well {Since typically there are problems on both sides of a conflicted relationship that need to be addressed}.

As the confronted party, you now know the “groundwork” or first steps you need to take to  begin to repair your negative contribution, so the next important step for you is …

Communicating a well-formed and appropriate apology.

I believe there are many things you’ll want to include in this. In fact, Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas wrote an entire book on the subject of apologies, sharing that different people desire different types of apologies—much like the unique “love languages” we all desire.

The different aspects of apology that they outline include: expressing regret, accepting responsibility, making restitution, genuinely repenting, and requesting forgiveness.

In my hypothetical example below, I’m going to include all five of these aspects into one apology.*

Let’s say, you’ve communicated that you want your spouse  to learn how to avoid being critical of you and letting his anger erupt at you in conflicted situations.

As the receiver of the boundary, your spouse probably recognizes that he’s been critical at times and that he’s hurt you with his harsh words. However, he may still feel that you’re exaggerating or seeking perfection. Regardless, he’s willing to work on these aspects in his life and the relationship. {This is still a good starting point!}

In other words, don’t expect a perfect and thorough understanding by the confronted party at this point …

[Tweet “Seeing our guilt and responsibility often takes time and many conversations and attempts to change. “]

And …

[Tweet “We may fail more than we succeed at first, because training in a new skill requires ‘failure’ in order to learn.”]

What the apology might sound like …
“Ann, I know that I’ve really hurt you over the years by the critical words I’ve said to you and about you. I want you to know that I’m sorry for that and that I feel terrible about how I’ve hurt you with my words.” {Expressing Regret} …
“I know that I’ve given myself permission to use my harsh words and anger against you as a weapon at times, and I want to change that.” {Accepting Responsibility and Genuinely Repenting} …
“Please forgive me for hurting you in this way.” {Requesting Forgiveness} …
“And I want to learn how to change this hurtful pattern in our relationship. So would you help me to know what I can do to improve or make up for the hurt?” {Making Restitution}


Which of the 5 apology languages is most important for you to hear in an apology?


What helpful insight might you add to the suggestions here?



Next Week, I’ll be addressing: “What if your offender dismisses or resists your boundary conversation?” So I hope you’ll come back by!

*In a reconciliation process, it is best to include all five of the languages of apology. You might be able to simply “ask for forgiveness” with a small infraction and leave it at that. But when dealing with major wounds, you need the support and acknowledgement of all five of the languages of apology to be expressed at some point. Again, this takes time, but should be the goal.

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23 responses to “How and When to Apologize”

  1. Hmmm… any of those five apologies sounds pretty good to me right now, Beth. 😦 I thought of your wisdom today in a moment when I really needed it. Thank you, as always, for your ministry.


    1. That’s awesome, Becky! Being an influencer or helper in your life really encourages me! Thank you for your ministry too. I just know you’re going to be a big-time author/speaker some day! Hugs to you!


  2. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    The basis for all five of these (good list, by the way) is tone of voice.

    The tone in which an apology is delivered is absolutely critical. If it’s rushed, or sounds forced, or bantering, the apology is worse than useless. It becomes an insult.

    But sometimes it’s not an inappropriate tone that’s intended. It’s a habit of speaking a certain way, phrasing things a certain way.

    And on the receiving end, it’s a habit of hearing. How often to we really listen to what our husbands or wives say? I think many of us jump ahead and fill in the rest of the sentence – and its meaning – using the familiar language and tone we’ve heard so often before.

    Apologies are a serious business, and we need to approach them with the determination to speak every sentence intentionally, and to listen attentively.


    1. Yes, you’re right. Any of these apologies or aspects of apology could be said with insincerity or with irritation and the entire message would be ruined, Andrew. And like you’ve said, when we hear those kinds of tones regularly, over time we begin to expect them and then we can’t even really hear the true intent anymore! Tone of voice certainly muddies the communication waters! Thanks for adding that to the discussion, my friend!


  3. bluecottonmemory Avatar

    Just requesting forgiveness works for me. I’m a word person and a problem-solver – but this is one area I don’t want words with fireworks and a show. I want to move forward! Maybe a server would need the tasks-oriented words. Now I want to read this book!!!!

    Hope you are having refreshing moments, Beth! Praying for you!


    1. I really want to hear regret and acceptance of responsibility, Maryleigh. However, I’m thinking of my husband when I say that. A simple request for forgiveness would be more than enough with a friend or acquaintance. But here’s the thing, many people don’t even think of apologizing. That’s what really bugs me! But now, you’ll have to forgive me, because I’m sounding like a grouchy old lady! Thanks for coming by and linking up, my friend!


  4. […] Sharing With: Wedded Wednesday […]


  5. All of them are perfect for various circumstances Beth. This series have indeed been a blessing.
    How are you and your family holding up? I trust God your travels were safe.


    1. I’m so glad you feel it’s blessed you, Ugochi! And we’re doing well, considering the stress and grief that we’re having to walk through in this season. Thanks so much for asking, sweet friend. It’s people like you who help to lift my spirits and encourage me. Hugs to you!


  6. Great advice! I believe that most apologies begin and end with “I’m sorry” and we never go past that and then healing cannot begin or proceed. I love the step of accepting responsibility because until we take ownership of the hurt we have caused, reconciliation cannot happen. Finally, the verse from Ephesians needs to be posted on my bathroom mirror as a reminder each morning before I go to work. Hope you and your family are starting to feel some healing and renewed strength from our Perfect Father! Blessings!


    1. Yes, that’s so true, Mary! Taking responsibility is crucial to reconciliation and I think it’s also where it most often gets derailed. It’s hard to own our messes, especially when we have to come to terms with the hurt we’ve caused others. And Ephesians 4:29 is one of my all-time favorite verses too and one that I’ve been able to keep committed to memory, unlike many other verses I’ve tried to memorize over the years. I’ve found it so helpful to recall this verse in crucial and conflicted moments. Thanks for stopping by, sweet friend!


  7. I think the accepting responsibility is extremely important. This part of reconciliation is crucial for me because when someone accepts responsibility and repents, they are showing that they are truly sorry for the role they’ve played in the hurt. Owning up to what we’ve done is also a sign of maturity in a person.


    1. Yes, Becky, I agree. That’s one that is so important to me as well, especially if I’m struggling to trust the person again. That commitment to change or try to do better next time goes along way in rebuilding my trust in that person. However, actually making the change or restitution is, I suppose, where the rubber meets the road! Apologies and what follows are not for the lazy or cowards! Thanks for coming by and encouraging me, girlfriend!


  8. […] with Wedded Wednesday, Walking Redeemed, Homemaking […]


  9. Thank you so much, Judith! I truly appreciate that you’ve taken the time to affirm me weekly in this endeavor. It’s my blessing to share what God has taught me through the years in this area and I pray it is useful for all who stop by! Hugs to you!


  10. Apologies. How we long to receive them and so often struggle to give them. I never thought of it as a love language though. That’s some serious good food for thought. Thanks for reminding us of how important it is to choose our words wisely!


    1. Yes, I think it’s interesting too, Nicki. I had never thought much about the way I wanted to hear an apology until I read their book. It’s an eye and heart-opener, for sure! Thanks for stopping by and weighing in, my friend!


  11. Thanks, Beth, for the “example apology.” Good points in this post from a good teacher! xxoo


    1. I’m glad you found it helpful, Sheila. I appreciate your encouragement, girlfriend! And I need to touch base with you and Linda. But I’m still swimming upstream and finding time to do all the things I must do (and want to do) elusive. But I’m glad you stopped by and I’m going to take a moment to hop on over to your place next!


  12. I’m so glad it did, Devin! I’m a very visual person and I totally understand how an image can grab you. And on top of it, I’m a word-nerd, so words mean so much to me–especially when they are words inspired by God! He’s no “word-nerd,” that’s for sure! I guess that’s because He is THE Word! 🙂


  13. […] Click the link to read the previous post in our series on forgiveness and reconciliation – How and When to Apologize. […]


  14. […] Also for further assistance on how to apologize after a boundary conversation check out my post – How and When to Apologize. […]


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