Be realistic about forgiveness. Recognize that, while forgiveness can occur as soon as you make the choice to forgive, trust sometimes takes a long time to reestablish in a relationship. Don’t expect forgiveness to remove natural consequences of wrong behavior or the painful emotions and memories that have resulted from it. But know that forgiveness is always worthwhile, because it’s the only way your relationships can heal.

Teach your kids to apologize. Help your kids develop the ability to successfully apologize in life by teaching them underlying lessons. Train them to accept responsibility for their actions. Let them know that their actions affect others, and that there are always rules in life. Set healthy rules for your family. When determining whether or not a particular rule you’re considering is good for your family, ask yourself: "Is this rule good for my child?", "Will it have some positive effect on my child’s life?", "Does this rule keep my child from danger or destruction?", "Does this rule teach the child some positive character traits, such as honesty, hard work, kindness, or sharing?", "Does this rule protect property?," "Does this rule teach my child responsibility?" and "Does this rule teach good manners?". Be sure to enforce consequences when rules are broken. Teach your kids that apologies are necessary in order to maintain friendships. Explain the five different apology languages to them. Model how apologies should work by apologizing to your children when you hurt them and letting them see you apologize to other people – such as your spouse, other family members, friends, neighbors, and coworkers.

Apologize to yourself. Ask God to help you remove the emotional distance between the person you want to be (your ideal self) and who you are (your real self). Write out a self-apology statement that details mistakes for which you haven’t yet forgiven yourself. Then, in front of a mirror, read your statement to yourself. Pray for God’s peace to fill your soul. Learn from your past failures and look forward to a brighter future.

Adapted from The Five Languages of Apology: How to Experience Healing in All Your Relationships, copyright 2006 by Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas. Published by Northfield Publishing, a division of Moody Publishers, Chicago, Ill.,

Gary Chapman is the author of the best-selling Five Love Languages series and the director of Marriage and Family Life Consultants, Inc. Gary travels around the world presenting seminars, and his radio program airs on more than 100 stations.

Jennifer M. Thomas, Ph.D., is a psychologist with Associates in Christian Counseling ( in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Jennifer counsels on a wide variety of individual and couple’s issues, from communication to trauma recovery and spiritual healing. She is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors.