The right way to say “I’m sorry” and be forgiven

Have you ever been wronged and someone said they were sorry but it just didn’t feel like enough? Have you ever done something that hurt someone else and as much as you tried to make up for it, they just can’t let it go? This is because everyone is an individual and we each have our own particular styles of apologizing and ways of feeling better about others apology to us. Some of our styles may not match up, consequently making us doubt the sincerity of someones apology. To break it down, there are five “languages” of apology that we ascribe to personally. Usually the way in which we apologize is the same way we like to be apologized by others. Learning your apology language can save a lot of heartache, as well as improve your relationships if you become aware of the other persons apology language. In the book, The Five Languages of Apology by Gary Chapman and Jennifer Thomas, they describe the different ways we apologize. Read the descriptions below to see your primary apology language. At the end you will be able to take a quiz that will assess in which order of importance you find these different types of apology satisfying. I highly recommend that you take this quiz yourself, and ask your partner and friends to take it as well and share the results for more harmonious relationships!

1. Expressing Regret

This may be one of the less demanding apology languages, as the apologizer simply has to express that they are sorry for what they have done and imply that they feel guilty or shameful for their actions. This is all centered around feeling empathy for others. In this apology language, the person apologizing helps the victim of their wrong know that they feel badly for what they have done. It doesn’t require them to take any additional steps to pay them back or change their behavior in the future, so a straightforward “I’m sorry” can go a long way with these people. When I took this quiz, this was my most valued apology language. I have realized that this style can be too forgiving to a fault, because I do usually feel much better when someone just says they are sorry and this doesn’t ensure that they wont continue to hurt me again. In addition, I have always been perplexed by others that will not simply forgive me right away when I express regret for wrong doing. I have especially been baffled by people who seem to want a large amount of “payback” for their wrong and bring it up over and over again, as that is not in my nature.

2. Genuinely Repenting

This language centers around attempting to modify the behavior that caused the pain. If this is your apology language, you hope that the person who hurt you will make an honest attempt at changing their behavior. One must note that depending on the cause, it is not easy to change overnight if it is something that is part of the persons regular behavior. If you are the one asked to change, you may feel that you have done nothing wrong because it is not something morally wrong. In these cases we must remember that relationships often come with compromise which we do out of love. Even if the offensive act is harmless to some, it may be hurtful to others and change should be considered to repair your relationship. The best rule of thumb is to make a commitment to change and take baby steps to do so in order to lessen any personal anxiety. There are of course exceptions, such as combating an addiction in which promptly ending the addictive behavior “cold turkey” (with proper support) is the only way to successfully change. This was my second apology language which I found the intended outcome to be ideal. Despite good intentions, I have noticed through experience that it takes a lot of patience to truly see change in people. Rather than pressure someone to change, encourage them. Not only that, but show your appreciation for any small changes that you see. Positive reinforcement can be the best way to help someone else change.

3. Accepting Responsibility

Accepting Responsibility is the affirmation of the offender’s action that hurt the other persons feelings. For those who have this language as their top priority, they want to hear the person say “I am wrong.” I can just hear in my head all of the times I have heard “I’m sorry, okay?” with nothing behind it. It means so much more when the person says “I am sorry. I know that I was wrong for doing ___.” This shows that the person is fully aware of their wrongdoing and is able to specifically identify the problem which caused you pain. It reflects back the content of the cause of the hurt feelings and cognitively affirms their knowledge of guilt. This language of apology was third on my list, although after exploring it further, I realized that it was equally as important to me as expressing regret. Accepting responsibility paired with saying “I’m sorry” seems to give it more meaning because it shows me that the person isn’t just appeasing me, but knows exactly why they are at fault.

4. Requesting Forgiveness

Although this may seem self explanatory, the depth of reason as to why this is important is not as obvious. If you value someone requesting your forgiveness, you see it as the offender’s way of expressing that they still want you to love them. This language centers around reassurance. Not only does it affirm that they know they have done you wrong, but it is their way of wanting to express that they want to repair and restore the relationship. Some people have a hard time asking for forgiveness because they feel like it is admitting that they failed. One must realize that everyone does things wrong at times, and asking for forgiveness can help repair relationships. It is also noted that one should refrain from demanding forgiveness. When you do that, it really can seem that you aren’t genuinely sorry. Although what you did may seem petty to you, it was obviously hurtful to them so you should respect that and try to mend the situation if you care for the person involved. This was my fourth apology language so it was on the lower side of importance to me perhaps because I know that anytime anyone says “will you forgive me?” my answer is always the same. As a Christian, I believe that Jesus died for my sins and the sins of the world. If He can do that for me, what right do I have not to forgive anyone else?

5. Make Restitution

Unlike Genuinely Repenting, Making Restitution goes much further and requires you to really know your partner or the person who you wronged. Genuinely Repenting requires a change in behavior directly related to the hurt, whereas Making Restitution requires you to do extra things for the person to make them feel loved which may have nothing to do with the actual content of what hurt them. Some people feel better receiving flowers after a fight, whereas this may have no meaning to others and they would rather have a long genuine hug. To help out with knowing what your partner or friend (and yourself) consider to feel loved, check out The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman or take the assessment If you are unable to determine the love language of the person you hurt, you will have little success in helping them feel better. People with this apology language won’t accept a million “I’m sorry’s.” They want to feel that you still love them. This was the last one on my list. I believe that it is nice to feel loved, but I don’t feel that someone has to go out of their way for me after they have done something to hurt me. I would rather them express regret, admit they were wrong and try to modify their behavior in the future.

Now that you have explored your apology language, you now must learn to forgive. Sometimes this is a simple task, and other times you feel like you can never forgive someone for the rest of your life. If you need help or are just curious, please read my previous blog entry on the topic at



About moanti (moe·on·tee)

My main mission of this blog is to demystify the confusion of “homosexuality” in the Bible and let the rarely heard alternative perspective be known. I also aspire to spread the loving Word of Christ to the gay and lesbian community who feel left out due to our society. I have extraordinary compassion for gays and lesbians who have struggled with religious persecution, but hope that they can come to know God as loving rather than run from Him forever due to a group of naïve heterosexual Christians who discriminated against them. I want to bridge the gap of these two groups with knowledge! If only I had a bigger podium to accomplish this… Please spread the word. Thank you and happy reading!
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2 Responses to The right way to say “I’m sorry” and be forgiven

  1. It would also be interesting to evaluate the responsibility of the one receiving an apology. In cases where the offender and offendee are celebrities with an agenda, both have a vested interest in making public motions to further their agenda. I’m thinking specifically of Rush Limbaugh and Sandra Fluke, both of whom are flogging an agenda to further their own views.

  2. Pingback: The Perfect Apology « AFFAIRCARE

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