How to Offer An Apology

We’ve all been there. Someone has offended us.  Then, in an awkward conversation they “offer” an apology.  Yet, as we walk away we can’t escape the feeling that there was no actual apology offered.  The words were there. But it wasn’t an apology.  What has happened?

The purpose of this short posting is not about dealing with the situation described above. If someone has offended you and offered a weak apology, I would suggest that you take it and forgive them. It’s the best way.  The reason that I am writing this is to explain how we can offer better apologies when we are the ones who offended someone else.  After all, the only person we can effectively change is us, yes?

The Bible teaches that a “soft answer turns away wrath” (Prov 15:1).  Nothing quells an angry person quite like a sincere apology.  Nothing stops a conversation gone wrong like a soft answer.  If we are to be peacemakers as Jesus desires (Matt 5:9), we must offer our apologies as soon as we know we have offended someone.

So, how do we offer an apology?

When you offer an apology, be very careful with the word “but.”  It is the leading cause of a poorly-offered apology.  If placed in the same sentence with the apology, it generally demonstrates that we are not sincerely offering an apology.  Rather, we are giving an excuse.  For example, if you say, “I’m sorry that I offended you with my remark, but I was only kidding,” then we show we are still arguing our position.  Why not say, “I’m sorry that I offended you?”  Just leave it there.  Using the word “but” means we are more focused on clarifying our position then tending to the other person’s feelings.  A Christian must “esteem the other” person better than ourselves (Phil. 2:3).  We must take care of their feelings before our own.

If you feel you must use the word the “but” in your apology, then put it before the apology.  For example, “I was only kidding with my remark, but I am sorry.”  Let your apology be the final clause of the sentence.  Let your apology be the last, sustaining word.

One final suggestion about apologies.  If you begin a conversation with, “I owe you an apology,” then give it.  Telling someone that we owe them something is not the same as actually giving it to them.  If you owe your friend $10, they’re still without the money after you’ve told them you owe it to them.  You actually have to give the money for the debt to be payed.

If we tell someone we owe them an apology and never give it, then we are demonstrating to them that we are not actually sorry.  It is a way for us to pacify our brother or sister without actually paying the debt.  That’s deceitful.  If you are a follower of Jesus you are called to a higher standard.

As Christians we must train ourselves to take the high ground in our relationships.  “Taking the high ground” means we lower ourselves.  it means we become humble.  It means we ignore our pride and self-centeredness and imitate Jesus.

Now, go find the person you offended and be like Jesus.





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