man woman no apology

Originally published in The Oklahoman / October 15, 2019

By Charlotte Lankard

To err is human, and most religious faiths and philosophies have rituals of confession and atonement.

My Jewish friends recently observed Yom Kippur, an annual day of atonement and repentance for any wrong doings over the past year. My Catholic friends go to confession.

Twelve-step recovery programs observe Steps 8 and 9. Step 8 asks they make a list of all people they have harmed and become willing to make amends to them all. Step 9 asks they make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

If you have no affiliation with any of these groups, it is still important to know how to make an apology because it is important in maintaining relationships.

While too many grew up never being taught how to do that, it is never too late to learn. I recommend a little book by Donna Moriarty titled “NOT JUST WORDS.”

Her book covers relationships with friends, family members, co-workers, strangers and people who are deceased. (She even lists 11 things for which you need never apologize.)

Moriarty says there are four steps to a good apology.

  • Admit it. Admit you made a mistake and caused hurt. Never mind that you didn’t mean it.
  • Express it. The most common words are, “I’m sorry.”
  • Fix it. A good apology includes a promise to make some kind of repair.
  • Change it. Make good on your promise whether that is to do better or to never do it again.

If you struggle with any fractured relationships, “NOT JUST WORDS” is worth a read, because Moriarty believes a good apology makes you braver, bolder and better at life — a worthy goal for all of us.