Remember the hit TV show Happy Days? It was a big hit that ran for ten years from 1974 to 1984. It became one of the biggest hits in television history. Henry Winkler, among others, became a big star.
He was the super-cool Fonzie. He was the coolest thing alive. He had a closet full of white t-shirts that he would wear under a very cool, black leather jacket. The Fonz could do just about anything. He could get any girl he wanted to go out with him if he just snapped his fingers. He could break a world record for jumping his motorcycle over barrels. He could turn on a juke-box by bumping it with his elbow—and it would always play the song he wanted! Nobody could beat the Fonz in a fight. And he never had a hair out of place!
But there was one thing the Fonz could not do. Do you remember that? The Fonz could not apologise. Every once in a while, Fonzie would mess up and do something wrong. He would hurt one of his friends, Richie or Potsie or Ralph Malph. And he knew that he should apologise, but he couldn’t bring himself to make an apology.
Keeping Healthy Relationships
It’s a fascinating aspect of his role and one that is worth thinking about for a moment. Is he alone? Are you comfortable making an apology for something you said or did? It’s hard to bring ourselves to apologise—to say, I’m sorry.
In our relationships, apologising is one of the hardest things to do. We all make mistakes; no-one is perfect. After all, who likes to admit they were wrong? Some people find saying they’re sorry humiliating. Perhaps they were criticised harshly by parents or other important people while growing up, and as a result, avoid admitting mistakes because of the horrible feelings it brings up.
Saying sorry is meant to make us feel vulnerable. How could it not? But here’s the thing: It’s really important to do in order for us to have healthy relationships. We all want and need to feel safe with the people we allow into our inner circle. We want to know that the people we are close to care about how we feel and are willing to admit their flaws. Not taking responsibility for wrongdoings makes us seem unsafe or untrustworthy. And withholding an apology is certainly not going to win us any friends! I mean, you can’t be right all the time.
Apparently, women say I’m sorry a lot more often than men. Does that mean they’re doing more things they have to apologise for? No, says Georgetown University professor Deborah Tannen. Women use I’m sorry not just to accept blame, but also to communicate empathy, something us men don’t do very well.
But making a sincere apology goes a long way to repairing a broken relationship. It means taking responsibility for myself and my actions. And that’s very important. It’s easy to shift the blame, a vague statement like, I’m sorry if you were offended by something I said is not strong enough. That’s leaving doubt.
Expressing a Sincere Apology
Remember that when you apologise, you’re taking responsibility for your part of the conflict. That doesn’t mean that you’re admitting that the entire conflict was your fault. People are often afraid to apologise first because they think whoever apologises first is ‘more wrong’ or the ‘loser’ of the conflict. Giving an apology even when only a small part of the conflict was your responsibility is OK, and often healthy. It allows you to establish that you regret your part of the actions, but confirm your own boundaries as well.
I’m sure we understand the power of words. But there is great power in expressing a sincere apology. People will respect you for taking seriously your own responsibility and not shirking it. Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12 – ESV)
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12 – ESV)
If you value your relationships, an honest apology can go a long way. When you say sorry to someone, you reach out a hand. If that person forgives you and takes your hand, you have a bond and that bond will strengthen your relationship.
When Jesus lives in our heart, he gives us that extra dimension to consider others more important than ourselves.
The New Testament says a lot about relationships—for example: “Stop being bitter and angry and mad at others. Don’t yell at one another or curse each other or ever be rude. Instead, be kind and merciful, and forgive others, just as God forgave you because of Christ”. (Ephesians 4:31-32 – CEV)