Over the past few weeks we have looked at an overview of the 5 apology languages in Part 1 – Apology Language: It’s Different from Forgiveness and have looked in depth into the first three in Part 2 – Apology Language: Regret, Responsibility & Restitution. If you haven’t had a chance to check those out you can click the links to be re-directed to where you left off!
Now let’s look in depth at the final two languages which I’ll refer to as “Repentance” and “Forgivness.” These last two languages are about learning how to go above and beyond a normal apology by learning how to show repentance and forgiveness. The best relationships are full of showing genuine repentance and forgiveness. Dr. Gary Chapman and Dr. Jennifer Thomas look at the importance of forgiveness in communication strategies for couples in their book, When Sorry Isn’t Enough (2013).
A Change of Heart
For some people, they have heard the same old apology time and time again for the same thing, yet nothing changes. What these people need is to see actual repentance or a change of heart. Repentance means, “to turn around,” or, “to change one’s mind”. It’s not easy to speak the language of repentance because it starts with an expression of intent to change. All true repentance has to start in the heart. When we are the offender we, who have a need to repent, have to recognize what we have done is wrong. Our actions have hurt the one we love and we do not want to continue this behavior. In faith communities, once we admit these things, we can also ask God to help us change. This is a great start in showing the person we have offended that we are accepting full responsibility for our actions and putting the effort in trying to make a change in our hearts. A heart change is essential before developing a plan for implementing change, which is the next natural step. Often times when repentance fails to work it is when there is no plan for making positive changes. It can be said, “I want to be better,” but we have to actually implement the plan. Making a plan requires thought and action. Inviting the offended person to help you make a plan or even just requesting their feedback for how you can change in a positive way is a collaborative way to show them repentance as well.
The final apology language is requesting forgiveness. This can be the hardest to do for the asker, but understandably so some people need to hear you ask for forgiveness when you are apologizing for hurting them. Dr. Chapman and Dr. Thomas found that 1 out of every 5 people expect the person in the wrong to ask for forgiveness. Requesting forgiveness indicates to someone that you want to see the relationship fully restored. It shows that you realize you have done something wrong, and it shows that you are willing to put the future of the relationship in the hands of the other person. This can be the hardest thing to do because asking for forgiveness is an admission of guilt and it shows that you know you deserve punishment. This is also often the hardest for people to do because as humans we do not like to be rejected. Since forgiveness lies in the hands of the offended person, they could just as easily reject your forgiveness. It’s not up to the offender to demand forgiveness, forgiveness has to be given as a free gift by the offended. It is out of control and out of the hands of the offender, which is not a place where most people like to be. Humans usually like to be in control, which makes it really hard to truly ask for forgiveness. However when that forgiveness is extended to you when you’re in the wrong, the power of that restoration uniquely deepens the relationship in a way it wasn’t before the struggle. This is why it may be worth the initial risk of asking!
If you feel like this concept of apology and forgiveness may be something you and your current relationships struggle with, don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our therapists here at Optimum Joy. Being in a relationship where both sides feel heard is hard work, but it can also transform how you interact with different people in your life.
If you’re ready to take your relationship to the next level by learning how to repent and ask for forgiveness, our therapists here at Optimum Joy would love to help walk you through this process. Whether you are ready to make a change towards a healthier relationship where both sides are heard, or if you are just interested in learning what your own apology language is and what that means for you, give us a call; we would love to work with you.