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26 March 2012


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I like this! I tell my boys that even if they don't believe they are in the wrong or don't 'feel' sorry, they should be sorry that something has injured their relationship with the other person. I am trying to teach them that people - and relationships - are more important (*most of the time) than being right.

*God's law and following your conscience are the exception to this. It's more important to *do* what is right than to please other people. But it is not so important to be recognized as being right, which is what we all tend to want most!


I agree. We also require that the I'm sorry and I forgive you in a nice voice. If they can't bring themselves to forgive nicely we remind them of the words in the Our Father that we pray every night. Do they really want God to forgive them the way they just forgave?


Great insight!



I randomly found your blog when I was googling the topic of public apologies. Thank you so much for this entry - it reminded me what forgiveness is all about. I will keep these points in mind as I both ask my husband and other loved ones for forgiveness, and as I strive to be gracious to them when they seek my forgiveness.


Glad to be of help, Sara!

(Lessons meant for children don't often expire when we grow up, at least if the lesson is a good, true lesson.)

Barbara C.

There is a lot of food for thought in this post for me, since I've been accused of not apologizing well.

I have two questions, though.
1. How do you handle it if the "injured" party just does not feel capable of forgiving...if the hurt feels too big to let go of easily?
2. How would you handle those who seem to apologize for their own benefit (i.e. "by expressing the feelings that are inside him, so that the speaker feels his true feelings has been heard")? They do it more to relieve their own burden even if they know that in the process they will be putting a larger burden on the other person.

Of course, maybe I am taking what is meant to be a lesson for children and applying it to my adult problems....(sigh)



(1) It is rarely my child who won't say "I forgive you" because, I think, they are so well practiced at it. If it was one of my children, I would take that as a sign that the kids need additional intervention before the discussion is over -- maybe my child is reasonably afraid that the behavior won't stop, etc., in which case it is probably time for some redirection to different activities. You can forgive someone and still decide you're done playing with them for the day.

If it is my child who has apologized and asked for forgiveness, I tell my child, "Sometimes people need time to forgive you, and when that happens you just have to wait until they are ready." I might add, "Maybe s/he doesn't know how to say it and will show you instead.". With small children, at least, they usually go back to playing eventually. BTW, if my child has to apologize to a child who is crying, I make them wait (not playing) to apologize until the other child calms down enough to listen to what s/he has to say.

(2) Well, young children rarely give "fake apologies," right? The "I'm sorry you took what I said the wrong way" kind? They may say "I'm sorry" when they don't mean it, which I have just spent the whole post advocating, or they may refuse to apologize. Fake apologies, which have the words "I am sorry" or "I regret" in them but point the sorrow or the regret the wrong direction because they are not grounded in a desire for forgiveness, are the domain of older kids and adults. People who want to save face.

I have yet to hit the teen years, but I imagine that if I hear one of those coming out of my tween's mouth, I will take him aside and explain that there is nothing wrong or unusual about feeling that you have been misunderstood or wrongly accused, but that the fake apology is never appropriate. If you really desire to be forgiven (and even if the other person is wrong about you, you should desire his forgiveness because forgiveness is good for him and good for your relationship) you will find a way to express that desire sincerely. Maybe you will have to suck it up and say "I am sorry" and let the person think it is an admission of wrongdoing. Maybe it is not advisable to admit wrongdoing (there are sometimes legal consequences after all) and if no apology you can offer is accepted, at that point you just have to let it go and try (silently) to forgive *him* for refusing to forgive *you.*

If someone fake-apologizes to you, i guess I will tell my kids, you have the choice to accept it as if it were a sincere apology, or to treat it as an opportunity for more dialogue, chock full of I-statements ("I get the sense that you feel I have misunderstood you. Do you want to tell me more about that?") Past history and expected future interaction are the guide to which approach makes sense.

I think it is totally appropriate to apply lessons for children to adult problems. That is exactly what we are supposed to do as we grow up. It works really well if the lessons were good. And I think that the purpose of apologies does not change with age.


Like your thoughts about forgiveness. Thanks for sharing. Interestingly enough, I just posted about forgiveness on my blog as well.

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