Saying “I’m sorry” can be the most humbling and pride-wrenching thing a person can do. Let’s be honest—it points to our faults in the face of another person. Many times the last thing we want to see is how flawed we truly are. However, it’s so necessary to restore the broken areas of a solid relationship, and facing humility does us some growing good. Chances are, the closer you are to the person, the more vulnerable you are to failing their expectations, simply because you both are fully your imperfect selves.
If your pride has ever blurred the lines between when to hold on to your image and when to humbly apologize, here are seven times you should probably say sorry.
1. When you didn’t keep your word or follow through.
Did you make a commitment to someone and not follow through with it? No matter what interferences led to this breaking of promises, you must own your part since you didn’t carry out your end of the responsibility. The best thing to do is not only apologize, but take action to make it right again.
A man who makes a vow to the LORD or makes a pledge under oath must never break it. He must do exactly what he said he would do. (Numbers 30:2)
2. When you assumed without knowing.
It’s easy to jump to conclusions when we act without thinking. Have you accused someone of something without taking the time to gain an understanding of the whole picture? This begins with being humble enough to listen to the other perspective before casting judgment. When you’ve got the picture wrong and made a negative assumption of another person’s character without understanding, it’s unfair and an apology is due.
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. (James 1:19)
3. When you were completely disrespectful.
Whether by word or by action, if you’ve belittled or directly inflicted harm on another person because you were led by irrational emotions, it’s time to regain some character. Even if our words are right, when our hearts and attitudes are wrong it completely defeats our purpose. A simple “I’m sorry I came at you that way…this is what I was trying to say…” will do. Be committed to a mutual respect for fruitful and God-honoring relationships.
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled. (Hebrews 12:14-15)
4. When you’ve broken their trust.
Have you in some way broken the safety of this relationship by not following through or doing something in secrecy? While trust can be difficult to earn back, acknowledging and apologizing is a healthy way to start. Instead of isolating and closing off or trapping yourself with shame, reach out and press in with a loving apology. Whether it is received or not, be at peace that you’ve decided to put your heart in the right place and have learned from it.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16)
5. When you’ve talked about them without talking to them.
Gossip is a slippery slope that the best of us have found ourselves on because we weren’t being mindful of the other person. If you haven’t been given permission to share a person’s story, or it has come to light that you were sharing your concerns about them without taking it up directly with them, an apology may be needed. Here are a few ways to tell if your sharing has been leaning on the dangerous side of gossip.
A gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence. (Proverbs 11:13)
6. When you took your frustration out on them.
Have you deflected emotions from another frustration onto a completely separate interaction? Reflect on whether you’ve loaded the fullness of your emotions onto someone who wasn’t deserving of your reaction. Sometimes this takes thinking about what events took place beforehand that may have collectively fueled your emotional state. Collect yourself and be willing to apologize for the extremes you may have taken with the unrelated and undeserving individual.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. (Ephesians 4:31)
7. When you miscommunicated.
Has a conflict arisen because you didn’t clearly communicate when it came to your feelings, expectations or directions? It’s easy to put blame onto the next person when problems arise, but we also have to be willing to reflect on any role of miscommunication we may have played in the mix. While it’s sometimes not a huge deal, it can definitely diffuse hostility when everyone owns up to their part in the mix-up. While even the simplest apology may take some self-awareness and humility, it will also encourage unity.
Let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 John 4:7-8)
Are there any other circumstances you’ve experienced where a definite apology is due? Comment below!