The Language of Apology


Recently, I (finally!) finished Brene Brown's book The Gift of Imperfection. Through all of her incredible wisdom, the one theme that kept popping up for me was that of forgiveness. 

I was one of those kids who ran around using the phrase, "sorry!" to be excused from lateness, forgetfulness, and general misgivings. When it came to saying sorry for the big stuff, it felt like swallowing a rock. I couldn't do it. Still, today, it is hard for me to admit where I've done wrong, but I'm learning. Forgiveness is more than just saying, "sorry", though.

True forgiveness comes from compassion, love, and non-judgment, but most of all empathy. When we forgive easily, especially when someone has hurt us, we diminish the offense and create a space for communication without resignation. It is then we can discuss the why we're hurt and how to avoid repeating it in the future. A sincere apology, followed by a signal of forgiveness, opens up a safe space to discuss the matter without escalation. Sounds simple right? But it can be so difficult!

“Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed, and rare.” -- Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed To Be and Embrace Who You Are. 

Just by chance, I stumbled across Dr. Gary Chapman's website. He wrote the famous 5 Love Languages, and also has an online profile quiz to discover your apology language too. What I realized after taking the quiz was how necessary it is to know this about your spouse, and about yourself. I felt blindsided not knowing this has existed. For me, it was like learning the antidote to diffuse every argument; apologizing in the way that mends the rift most efficiently, and with great love. 

Recently, I was able to vocalize, for the first time, what I needed from husband to move on after a disagreement, and it was so edifying and grounding to see him respond courageously. According to Dr. Chapman's quiz, apology languages are as follows: we require restitution to be made, responsibility to be taken, regret to be expressed, forgiveness to be requested, or genuine repentance to be made. 

The greatest gift in a spouse is that we don't have to navigate the troubles we face alone. One of the best things we can do for our marriage is keep our relationship healthy by maintaining mutual respect, even in the midst of an argument. And when it's time to apologize, humbly coming forward, arms outstretched, to begin again.