When to apologize? (Apology Ettiquette)
Apologies are a tricky business, but I think they can actually be easy, normal, and (usually with not self-serving intentions) a healthy part of a normal relationship, regardless of whether you are at work, at church, married, you accidentally tripped a jogger…the possibilities are endless.
I think if you have to ask whether or not you should apologize, that typically means you should just apologize and see what happens. Now if you are like me, you may have a habit of apologizing too much (I used too). But through learning what constructive apologies looks like and a healthy dose of skepticism over easy solutions, God has helped me learn what it looks like when an apology is necessary, and when one isn’t (through practice). I have created two different scenarios to help you imagine why apologizing is normally a good idea if you feel like you should, which would hopefully come from a recognition that you may have legitimately hurt another person, no matter whether or not it is too “small” to apologize for.
The person who you may have hurt was in fact hurt, and even if they cannot accept the apology due to personal reasons (that are not your responsibility and you cannot be made responsible for unless you allow it), you have done what was necessary to treat them as a person you respect, acknowledging you may have hurt them. The goal of an apology is to do what you can to make amends and them learn in order to not repeat the behavior or the hurtful part in the future, or at least, less over time. You aren’t supposed to be Jesus. You can apologize and be broken and completely wrong, and it isn’t anyone’s place to condemn you (ever), let alone if you are trying. It helps if they know you care, though.
The person who you may have hurt didn’t notice OR wasn’t really all that hurt or upset in the first place. Apologizing will get you in the habit of being a good friend and make it clear that you are trying to become accountable for your actions throughout the course of your life. It will let the person you could have hurt aware that you value the relationship you have with them, whether it is romantic, personal, professional, what have you. It will give you credibility through having made it clear that you care later on. It will make you a person others can trust, from your choices to how others respond to them. It will become easier over time, and because it is a good habit grown from a small change, it will inspire bigger goodness in you and those you interact with. You don’t have to change the world alone, but you can change your world. That’s where faith comes in for me, but those are my beliefs, and they have helped me come to these conclusions, as a Christian. If you identify as a Christian, this will help you grow your character a little bit more like Jesus through practice and repetition. And as always? No one is perfect.
I hope this may help if you are trying to evaluate what intentional living and taking responsibility for your actions may look like in your life. The best part is that it just depends, and you get to unravel that for yourself! It seems a lot daunting than just doing it, trust me.
All the best,