The practice of trashing someone and then saying, “bless her heart,” to sanctify the badmouth is a kind of regional joke we laugh about and don’t actually do.
But who among us has not received an “apology” that is basically a long-winded, self-justification and personal attack, capped off with “All Best Wishes” or “Namaste” as if dressing up an insult in a tutu spiritualizes it.
A real apology is not about self-demeaning, but it is about sharing the recognition that one’s words or actions harmed another, making amends, even if the harm was inadvertent, and changing one’s actions moving forward. A real apology includes ownership of the mistake. So should never begin with “I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings” (when you know you did) or “I’m sorry that you took it the wrong way.”
A real apology takes both responsibility and empathy. You will only be able to take responsibility without feeling shame i(or projecting your shame on the other) if you apply compassion to yourself. So, the first thing to do is apply self-empathy.
What need were you trying to meet what you made that mistake? What would have been a better way to meet that need? What underlying erroneous belief might have been driven your original choice? What would be a more resourceful belief on which to base your actions?
Once you find the mistaken thought that drove the mistaken action, and forgiven yourself, you’ll be able to reach out in a way that is much more likely to result in healing, peace, and in the case of close personal relationships, increased trust and intimacy.
An apology is about actually wishing someone all the best. It’s about actually greeting the other soul to soul, where we are one. It’s about honoring both people and strengthening the relationship, whatever it may be- friend, lover, spouse, whomever.
I think it is of the utmost important to teach the fine art of apology to our children. This is how they will learn to grow past selfishness, to become fully mature people, capable of true friendship, It’s part of teaching them to be good citizens and it’s how we build a culture of civility, kindness, and peace.