Ask Abbie: A sincere apology is the least you can do

Published 11:05 am Saturday, November 9, 2013

Q: I dated my ex-boyfriend for three years and cheated on him for about the last six months of our relationship. It has been about three months since we broke up and I still feel really bad about what I did. I really want to apologize but I am not sure if I should. What if he rejects my apology or thinks if I really do feel guilty for cheating I’m just getting what I deserve? Do you think I should apologize anyway?

A: The sticks of a KitKat bar, The Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The Beatles and the steps of an appropriate apology all have something in common. Each occurs in fours. The following describes the four steps associated with issuing an appropriate apology. If after reading these steps and after giving much consideration to them you feel prepared and equipped to issue an appropriate apology, then and only then should you pursue the initiative.

Step 1: Be able to express remorse and regret. When our actions hurt people, the injured party, in this case your boyfriend, needs to know you are remorseful or that you can identify with the injury you caused. You do this by verbally acknowledging the repercussions of your actions. Examples include: “What I did was uncalled for” and “I realize I hurt you and destroyed our relationship.”

Step 2: Ask for forgiveness. The offended party is rarely healed and the apology is seldom effective as a result of the words “I am sorry” alone. An appropriate apology must be coupled with specifics that directly address the actual injury you caused. For instance, if you lost your temper with someone and said hurtful words to them, your apology needs to recognize this. It would sound something like “I am sorry for losing my temper today and for saying things I should not have said. I realize my words were hurtful, and that is not the kind of person I want to be.” Since I do not know the details of your situation, I will leave it up to you to formulate an apology that is best suited for your boyfriend and your specific situation.

Step 3: Be quiet. To be quiet means once you ask for forgiveness, you don’t add another thing. Although it is a natural tendency to want to have the last word if you do so, you may potentially negate any progress you have made thus far with regard to your apology. You risk seeming insincere.

Step 4: Take responsibility and change. In contrast to the first three steps, which can be accomplished through words alone this final and most crucial step requires action, courage, maturity and a choice to put others in front of ourselves. Step 4 is accomplished through taking action to change our destructive patterns and negative qualities. Making such an effort signifies an acceptance of responsibility for the pain caused to another and a desire to fix the root cause of our painful actions. If we say “I am sorry” and do not make an effort to change, an apology to someone we hurt appears insincere and will likely be rejected. Never forget! Every positive change we make to ourselves heals our own hearts, heals the hearts and minds of others, and makes us a better partner for someone in the future. We owe it to the people we love to be our best for them.

A sincere apology is at least what we can do for those we offend and at most what we can for our own growth. An insincere apology is at least what we can do for our selfish nature and at most what we can do for the selfish nature of the much larger enemy at work. Each minute we are given is not only an opportunity to defeat the enemy by being a positive influence on others and the world around us, but is also a blessing to have. Don’t take a single second for granted.

When making your final decision to apologize or not, listen to the nudges of truth felt deep within your heart and not the voices of deceit residing deep within your mind or emotions. No need to search the “four” corners of the earth to find your answer when it can already be found inside of you.

ABBIE LONG is a Franklin native and advice columnist for The Tidewater News. Submit your questions to