The Five Languages of Apology

How to Experience Healing in All Your Relationships
Author: Gary Chapman

Introduction

Gary Chapman is the author of The Five Love Languages and several other books. Jennifer Thomas is a psychologist and counselor. Apologies are core to maintaining and healing relationships. Learning how to apologize can be of tremendous benefit. Some books on anger and forgiveness focus on what to do when the other person offends you. This book talks about when you need forgiveness as well.

 
Five elements of apology comprise the core of the book:
  • Expressing Regret - "I am sorry"
  • Accepting Responsibility - "I was wrong"
  • Making Restitution - "What can I do to make it right?"
  • Genuinely Repenting - "I'll try not to do that again"
  • Requesting Forgiveness - "Will you please forgive me?"

Best Chapter: 9. Learning to Forgive

If the person who offended you does not come back to apologize, then, according to Jesus, confront the offender. If he repents, forgive him. If the person does not apologize, release that person to the heavenly Father who will do what is just and right. Don't allow the other person's refusal to apologize to keep you from apologizing. Be willing to apologize and admit your failures, regardless what the other person does.

Someone who has been hurt very deeply or often may not be emotionally, spiritually, or physically able to genuinely extend forgiveness right now. They may need time for emotional or physical healing to build the capacity to forgive.

Forgiveness gives renewed life to relationships. Unforgiveness pronounces death.

When we commit actions or speak words that are detrimental to another, the consequences of those actions and words are never fully removed, even with genuine forgiveness. Forgiveness does not remove all painful emotions. Nor does it remove the memory of the event.

We take the memory to God along with the pain, acknowledge what we are thinking and feeling, and thank Him that by His grace the offense has been forgiven. We choose to focus on the future and not allow our minds to be obsessed with past failures that are now forgiven.

Key Insights

"When one's sense of right is violated, that person will experience anger. He or she will feel wronged and resentful at the person who has violated their trust. The wrongful act stands as a barrier between the two people, and the relationship is fractured. They cannot, even if they desired, live as though the wrong had not been committed. Something inside the offended calls for justice. It is these human realities that serve as the basis of all judicial systems." (18)

"Humankind has an amazing capacity to forgive." (18) "The more intimate the relationship, the deeper the desire for reconciliation." (19)

"The Christian is instructed to forgive others in the same manner that God forgives us. How does God forgive us? The Scriptures say that if we confess our sins, God will forgive our sins. Nothing in the Old or New Testaments indicates that God forgives the sins of people who do not confess and repent of their sins." "Jesus' teaching is that we are to be always willing to forgive, as God is always willing to forgive, those who repent." (20)

"Genuine forgiveness removes the barrier that was created by the offense and opens the door to restoring trust over time." (221)

"What most people are looking for in an apology is sincerity." (25) "I am sorry." Expressing regret is the emotional aspect. (26)

"An apology has more impact when it's specific. Be specific about what you are sorry about. Demonstrate by language that you understand how and how much you have hurt the person. (29)

Do not follow with, "But…"! "Anytime we verbally shift the blame to the other person, we have moved from an apology to an attack. Attacks never lead to forgiveness and reconciliation." "Anytime an apology is followed by an excuse for the offense, the excuse cancels out the apology in my mind." (30-31)

"Learning to say 'I was wrong' is a major step toward becoming a responsible and successful adult." (39)

"I agree that I have a right to feel hurt, angry, disappointed, and frustrated or whatever else I may be feeling. I don't choose my feelings; I simply experience them. On the other hand, I disagree with the idea that because of my feelings, I have the right to hurt someone else with my words or behavior." (43)

"For many individuals, the most important part of an apology is acknowledging that one's behavior is wrong." (47)

"The idea of 'making things right' to make up for a wrong is embedded within the human psyche…." There is an innate sense that when a wrong is committed it should be paid for. "A voice inside us says, 'I ought to do something to make amends for what I have done.'" (53-4) In making restitution, one size does not fit all." "Restitution often extends beyond expressing love through speaking one of the five languages of love. It may require repayment or restoring of something taken…." (64-5)

More upsetting than the offense is the repetition of the offense. Repentance means 'to turn around' or 'to change one's mind.' Repentance begins with the expression of an intention to change. The second step is to plan to change. The third step is implementing the plan. If you fail again, acknowledge it quickly. Get up and try again. (69-83)

People often expect someone to ask their forgiveness as part of an apology. Requesting forgiveness indicates that you want to see the relationship restored. It admits guilt, that you deserve condemnation or punishment. It is hard for many to ask forgiveness, especially those of a controlling personality type. Some fear rejection. (93-5)

"Don't demand forgiveness. You cannot expect it. When we demand forgiveness, we fail to understand the nature of forgiveness. Forgiveness is essentially a choice to lift the penalty and to let the person back into our lives." "Forgiveness is always to be requested but never demanded." "…when you request to be forgiven, you are making a huge request. It will be costly to the person you have offended. When they forgive you, they must give up their desire for justice. They must relinquish their hurt and anger, their feeling of embarrassment or humiliation. They must give up their feelings of rejection and betrayal. Sometimes, they must live with the consequences of your wrong behavior." (99-100)

"Husbands and wives typically do not have the same primary apology language. Consequently, their apologies are often met with resistance rather than forgiveness." (106)

"What if the person who offended me does not come back to apologize? Then I am to lovingly confront the offender. This approach was laid out clearly by Jesus. 'If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.' The pattern is clear. An offense is committed. The person does not immediately apologize. So you confront the offender, looking for an apology. If the person apologizes, then you forgive." (141)

"Please notice carefully that Jesus did not say we should forgive the offender when he or she is unwilling to apologize." "Many of the irritations in relationships we can overlook, forbear, accept. But moral failures always stand as a barrier that can be removed only by apologizing and forgiveness." If the person will not apologize, we are "to release that person to an all-knowing heavenly Father who is fully capable of doing what is just and right toward that person." (142-43)

"Don't allow the other person's refusal to apologize to keep you from apologizing. He or she may or may not forgive you, but when you have apologized, you will be able to look yourself in the mirror knowing that you are willing to admit your failures." (143)

"In reality there is a third possible response [to an apology]: 'Give me some time to think about it. I want to forgive you, but I've got to have some time to process all of this.' Sometimes we have been hurt so deeply or so often that we cannot bring ourselves emotionally, spiritually, or physically to the point of genuinely extending forgiveness. We need time for inner healing, for the restoration of emotional balance, or sometimes physical health that will give us the capacity to forgive." (146)

"Forgiveness and trust are not to be equated. Because forgiveness is a decision, it can be extended immediately when one perceives he has heard a sincere apology. However, trust is not a decision-it is rather an emotion. Trust is that gut-level confidence that you will do what you say you will do." "Trust is that emotional sense that I can relax with you and don't have to be suspicious. I can let down my emotional guard because you will not knowingly hurt me." (147)

"Trust is diminished because the person proved to be untrustworthy." "So how do we rebuild trust in a relationship when it has been violated? The answer is by being trustworthy one day at a time." "Trust is not fostered by secretiveness but by openness. If you choose to be trustworthy over a period of time, your spouse will likely come to trust you again." (148)

"Forgiveness holds the power to give renewed life to the relationship. The choice not to forgive pronounces the death penalty upon the relationship." (149)

"It is one of the fundamental realities of life: When we commit actions or speak words that are detrimental to another, the consequences of those actions and words are never fully removed, even with genuine forgiveness. The second reality is that forgiveness does not remove all painful emotions." "Forgiveness is not a feeling; it is a commitment to accept the person in spite of what he or she has done. It is a decision not to demand justice but to show mercy." (150)

"Forgiveness does not remove the memory of the event." "If we have chosen to forgive, we take the memory to God along with the hurt feelings, acknowledge to Him what we are thinking and feeling, but thank Him that by His grace the offense has been forgiven. Then we ask God for the power to do something kind and loving for that person today. We choose to focus on the future and not allow our minds to be obsessed with past failures that are now forgiven." (150)

The Five Languages of Apology: How to Experience Healing in All Your Relationships
Gary Chapman, 2006, 288 pp.

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