If there is one thing that sets relationships right it’s the ability to make apology for any wrongdoing, however perceived. The apology, if it’s rightly deduced, communicated and received, is the facilitator of relationship risk management.
To enjoy the best of life—relationships-wise—there’s only one thing in a way. If we cannot maintain our relationships, via effective apology, when results go south, we are limited regarding trust for future interactions with these people.
The truth is trust can appear to be unaffected by unresolved conflict, where issues are swept under the carpet, but it generally always comes back to bite us.
So, that is the motivation to make reparation a key priority in our relationships; it doesn’t really matter whose mistake it was. The situation needs to be resolved. Anyone can extend the olive branch for what they did in the relational mishap.
Now, we must also admit, apologies cost us. But how much, and is the cost worth it?
The Cost/Benefit Analysis
The cost of apologising is really momentary; we pay our premium at the gate of courage—that is, the courage to right a situation that we have had something to do with that has gone wrong.
Some people call it humble pie. Some apologies will carry with them an extended cost like ongoing ridicule or a calling to account for historic lapses. So be it. Our consciences will be clear. And just because someone is taking advantage of our apology doesn’t mean we have to trust them—we learn from these experiences. We learn who we can be intimate with.
In sum, the cost of our apology is our humility; it’s a test of how really humble we are. We may have designs on a character of humility but unless we can apologise when we need to we are not really humble at all.
Three Key Apologies
Relationships consist in a three-way realm; our relationship with God, with others, and with ourselves.
With each of these relationships we have opportunities to become adept at making apology. If we can but reach this goal, we have the keys to the city of our souls. That’s benefit enough of its own.
With God, our apology was presumably made, first, at salvation—the time when we realised, for the first time, our past sin, our present sinfulness, and our propensity for future sin. We should have learned that this first apology to God was certainly not to be the last. The most mature of Christians have become masters of apologising, continually, to God; not out of guilt, but in truth; not ashamed, but sincerely thankful for the path back to God’s Presence.
With others, we cannot help but have conflict. They are not perfect, and we know how imperfect we, ourselves, are. Misunderstandings are rife; miscommunication is a continuous threat; assumptions are made quicker than we, or they, even think. There are perhaps a hundred opportunities a day to smoothen the rough waves of relational rapport, and it doesn’t even have to be our fault per se. The main thing is that we don’t allow our relationships meander, knowingly, into the abyss of ill-trust, where eye contact diminishes and we begin to avoid each other.
With ourselves, we have a vital apology to learn and to apply; continuously. People might think this is crazy—why should we need to apologise to ourselves? It’s simple really. We get down ourselves and our self-talk runs wild in condemnation when we do supposedly ‘unforgivable’ things. But we all make the same mistakes. We all violate life’s rules in the same sorts of ways. This is one of the truths that Jesus called attention to in the Sermon on the Mount—does everyone murder? No, but everyone gets angry toward others; this is a form of murder. Apologising to ourselves at necessary times is the wisdom of truth; there is no good in not being gentle with ourselves. We are God’s property; not to be abused.
The Blessings of Repentance
Repentance is wisdom because it knows the truth; the time when, and why, to turn back onto the God-path.
Apology is repentance. It’s the courage to communicate our remorse for things done which we had something to do with.
The benefits of apology are the blessings of repentance; to restore our relationships in line with truth and to buoy them up in trust.
If life is pivoted around relationships, apology is risk management ensuring success.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.