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When it Feels Like You Always Have to be Sorry for Something

Dr. David B. Hawkins

Offering an apology for wounds you have committed can be tricky business. There are times when it may seem like nothing you say is good enough to receive forgiveness. 

“I’m always saying ‘I’m sorry,’” one man said to me recently. “She just seems to hold onto grudges forever.” 

“Offering an apology can be challenging,” I suggested. “Sometimes it has to do with the way you share an apology, or the depth and severity of the grievance or any number of other factors.” 

“Like what?” he asked. 

“Well,” I said, “saying you are sorry for forgetting to put the wet clothes in the dryer is going to sound a lot different than apologizing for hurting your mate’s feelings, which will be very different from having an affair. Does that make sense?” 

“Sure,” he said. “But she won’t forgive me for anything. I’m always living in being sorry.”

We shared more about the power of a good apology and the importance of not only sharing an apology, but hoping someone will find it in their hearts to forgive us. Ultimately, we cannot control others and must be clear about that. 

“It just hurts when she won’t let an issue go,” he continued. “I really think I’ve done a good job of owning my stuff, but never have the sense she will let go of things. It’s frustrating.” 

This man is feeling the frustration many feel when they have issued an apology and yet their mate won’t seem to let go of the offense. This situation is so delicate because often the matter is more complicated than it appears. 

Here are some additional things to consider: 

First, apologies must be an integral part of your marriage. Sadly, none of us are perfect and subsequently you and your mate will make mistakes. Part of healing from those mistakes means saying “I’m sorry” in an effective way. Pride often gets in the way of offering and even accepting an apology. Be ready and willing to give and accept an apology.

Second, there are “good” apologies and “bad” apologies. Apologies must be comprehensive, heartfelt and sincere. They must take full responsibility for the wrongs done, the impact of the wrongs and full effort to heal the wounds caused by the harm. Behavior must change so that the wounded party can heal.

Third, share what might be missing from your mate’s apology. Your mate may be doing the best they can at offering an apology. If something is missing from your mate’s apology, be clear with them as to what is missing. Did they fail to take full responsibility for the harm they have done? Did they fail to show sincere remorse? Perhaps they have apologized but continue to commit the same harmful behavior. Be clear with your feedback so they know what is missing.

Fourth, allow the apology to impact you and your heart. We often harden our hearts after we have been wounded. We withdraw and pull back, vowing to not be hurt like we have been again. This hardening of our hearts stops us from being hurt, but also stops us from fully connecting with our mate. Our mate can never “touch us” and we lose out on opportunities for intimacy.

Finally, learn to let go and move forward. Learn to let go of wounds and move forward with your lives. This does not mean glossing over wounds, but being open to healing. It means asking yourself these questions: “How long will I let this offense impact me? What more do I need before I fully let go of this offense?” Learning to let go and move forward is a matter of the heart and greatly impacts our emotional and spiritual well-being. 

Offering and receiving apologies is an integral aspect of Scripture. The Apostle James said, “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” (James 5:16)   

 

Have you learned how to offer sincere apologies? Have you learned to receive apologies and offer forgiveness? If you would like further help, we are here for you. Please send responses to me at [email protected] and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website and learn about our Personal and Marriage Intensives as well as our newly formed Subscription Group, Thrive, for women struggling from emotional abuse. 

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