Monday, October 25, 2010
The Importance of an Apology
I’m sorry. Simple words that can have a powerful impact, but words we don’t offer enough to those we love the most, according to two recent studies by researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada.
An Oct. 18 Wall Street Journal story about the study said we apologize about four times a week and we “offer up these apologies much more often to strangers (22% of the time) than to romantic partners (11%) or family members (7%). The only folks we apologize to more? Friends (46%).”
The studies found women apologize more than men, but that men are as willing as women to apologize if they have done something wrong. However, men have a different opinion of what is an offense.
Regardless of the male-female difference, apologies can make a huge difference in a relationship. We all make mistakes and can hurt others. It can be inadvertent or deliberate but if we know we’ve hurt we should make amends. A sincere apology can go a long way. Have you ever worked up a full head of anger against someone who wronged you but felt that quickly disappear when that person turned around and offered a heartfelt apology?
The importance of the apology has not gone unnoticed in today’s fast-paced world. For example, at PerfectApology.com you can find tips on making a good amends. The site offers suggestions on the art and science of a good apology along with apology gift suggestions.
On March 12, 2000, the Jubilee Year, Pope John Paul II made international headlines when he offered an unprecedented apology on behalf of the Roman Catholic Church for the sins of the past 2,000 years.
In his homily that day he called on Catholics to “Let us forgive and ask for forgiveness.” He said, “we cannot fail to recognize the infidelities to the Gospel committed by some of our brethren, especially during the second millennium. Let us ask pardon for the divisions which have occurred among Christians, for the violence some have used in the service of the truth and for the distrustful and hostile attitudes sometimes taken towards the followers of other religions.”
The pope went on to ask Catholics to take responsibility for our part in the “evils of today.”
I remember when he offered this apology that several magazines and newspapers published commentaries on what constitutes a good apology and how to tell if one is sincere or not. It’s like we all have this inner radar that tells us when someone is just trying to appease or is really, truly sorry for what they have done. And we know whether or not we are really sorry when we apologize.
It is a humbling thing to say, “I’m sorry.” It can be extremely difficult to apologize to someone when we are wrong, but it is an act of humility. Not to apologize when it is warranted could be an act of pride, one of the cardinal sins.
But as the Waterloo researchers found out, and our mothers and grandmothers often told us, it is important to make things right. So next time you are wrong, don’t hesitate. Just say “I’m sorry.”