I’m Sorry

February 16, 2021 John R. Hatfield 0 Comments

Two Powerful Words

John R. Hatfield


Published at The University of New Mexico Mentoring Institute.

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Saying I’m sorry just may be two of the most powerful words spoken. Powerful because they represent humility, personal responsibility, and courage to acknowledge wrong and the desire to restore what was compromised. It places the highest value on relationship and not on being right. I distinctly remember the time I was confronted with the desire to be right in the dialogue with my mentor in respect to a conflict with a co-worker. But I’m right and he is wrong, why should I have to apologize I moaned, he calmly looked me in the eye and said, “what is most important John, being right or restoring the relationship?” 

The purpose of apology is to restore a fractured relationship whether between friends, co-workers, a boss, neighbors, children, spouses, lovers, or significant others. True apologies never have any additions, no add on, buts, if’s, or justifications to why. When this happens it says, I get a free pass, focusing on self-preservation and identity. When these are interjected in the apology it changes everything. It shifts the pain and weight of personal accountability to blame. Honesty demands a full truth not a half-truth seeking relief of the discomfort. Many times, I only want to share a half-truth protecting myself and choosing not to take personal responsibility. When we opt for half-truths the receiver of the apology is devalued and whatever happened is also devalued. When this level of immaturity happens, restitution is compromised. Of course, the opposite occurs when the receiver feels sincerity and sorrow in an honest responsible apology. 

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When a highly emotional, painful, or suffering altercation happens we desire immediate restitution through the first conversation, but it simply doesn’t work that way. The genesis of stepping into the arena of restoring fractured relationship is just the beginning, never the final conclusion. It starts the dialogue and depending on the infraction, will dictate the length of the discussion and forgiveness, as well as level of trust reinstated. In the discussion the apologizer must ask the difficult question of how their action hurt and what were the effects. This provides specifics for the apologizer so that he or she understands the gravity and then can apologize specifically for the hurts and results of their actions. This healthy discussion has the opportunity for deep cleansing in the restoration process. Lastly, the receiver also has a responsibility. They must be able to value and respect the sincerity and courage of the apologizer. They must let go of the desire for the “perfect” wording, understanding, and remorse. Indelible in my emotional mind is the time I apologized to a couple in the organization we were involved in together, weeping for what I had done, completely broken and their mean, hateful self-righteous response that I didn’t use the “right words” they wanted to hear and wasn’t remorseful to their standard thus withholding their forgiveness. My mentor, who sat in on the discussion, was insightful after this communication saying, “John, this is not about you, but about them and some unhealed hurts in their own lives that just vomited all over you.” She spoke truth into me. 

Those who receive apology must not have any add-ons, buts, and ifs. Empathy and compassion must be able to rise and replace hate, hurt, and withholding. To judge and hold a grudge is ugly. Restoration is the goal and sadly most times it’s a narrow path with few choosing the better, more beautiful, healing way.

John R. Hatfield—BraveManSociety–jrhfield@gmail.com

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I’m Sorry was last modified: June 21st, 2021 by John R. Hatfield