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The Incredible Power of a Sincere Apology

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Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

Saying sorry might not have made a damn bit of difference, but we’ll never know, will we?

Here’s the thing about apologies: they matter. Telling someone that you’re sorry for something you’ve done wrong has this curious alchemy. We acknowledge that we’ve fucked up and pair that with genuine concern about the other person’s feelings. Then we have this desire to make it right. Out comes an apology.

The Wrong Apology

No, not one of those half-assed apologies where we’re really blaming the other person for our shitty behavior. Not one of those apologies where we’re just sorry we got caught or have to suffer consequences.

The Right Kind

I’m talking about a real honest-to-goodness, bottom-of-the-heart apology.

The ones that say I’m-sorry-that-I-made-this-mistake-and-hurt-you-and-I’ll-do-whatever-it-takes-to-fix-this.

And the ones that say I-know-there’s-no-fixing-this-but-I’m-sorry-for-the-pain-I’ve-caused.


Those heartfelt apologies that come to us shame-faced with pain in their eyes and express empathy and a desire to make things right, or failing that, to simply let us know that they were wrong.

It means something. That admission of wrongdoing, that acknowledgment of our suffering, that desire to make it right. That’s fucking powerful!

Healing- or Not

When we don’t get those things- or worse, we get gaslighted or made to feel like we’re in the wrong- it leaves an ache. While some apologies will never come, the ones that do can have an enormous impact, particularly as it relates to our healing. It helps us move forward.

I’ve wronged people, but I have a code about that.

When I realize that I have wronged someone, I apologize. It doesn’t matter how long ago it was. It doesn’t matter if the other person doesn’t really give a damn. If I know that I hurt someone, however unintentionally, I say that I’m sorry for doing that. I try to make amends. I let them know that I’ve put thought into my actions and have seen the error of my ways. I reach out. In every circumstance in which I’ve done this, I’ve been fortunate enough to have my apology accepted. It’s even helped mend relationships.

But I’ve also been on the other side, where no apology was forthcoming.

It’s a painful experience. It’s made more painful because the lack of an apology feels like the other person isn’t sorry for what they did, doesn’t care that they hurt us, and has made no effort to make amends for their behavior. It adds another layer of hurt because we often feel like they would apologize if they were truly sorry for their role in hurt we’ve sustained. Not that everyone who feels sorry apologizes. Of course, that’s not always the case.

But apologies do have an impact. They matter.

Even if the apology isn’t accepted, I feel like the act of trying to make amends and to sincerely apologize sets us free to move forward in our own lives. It clears the air, even if the outcome isn’t what we had hoped. But to know that we’ve wronged another and not apologize? I believe that carries a darkness and a weight, one that isn’t easily dispelled.

Maybe the apology won’t make a damn bit of difference. But you won’t know until you try.

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