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The Power of a Genuine Apology

Have you noticed how rare apologies are? It seems the more we try to inflate people’s self esteem, the more rare and precious apologies have become. It sometimes seems to me that people are so insecure they don’t dare risk any conversation that would make them seem and feel less than perfect. Forgiveness is rare but at least some churches encourage it. Sadly I know of hardly anyone who preaches apology. Have you ever heard a sermon on it? This void is especially sad because sincere apologies are as essential as heartfelt forgiveness for maintaining authentic healthy relationships.

The Bible warms us that “Every man is right in his own eyes.” Our ability to rationalize and self-justify is astonishing. Hitler thought he was helping the Germans people just like a father would. John Dillinger, a notorious crime figure from the early 20th century, considered himself a pretty good guy. More recently, Saddam Hussein thought he was beloved by his people. Yet these infamous historical figures don’t bother me much. What truly saddens me is how uncommon sincere apologies are even among Christians.

Some people I knew years ago visited California a while back so I took them to lunch. When the husband went to the rest room his wife told me he had nursed a grudge against me for over 30 years. When he returned to the table I suggested we take a walk. I asked if there was anything he wanted to tell me. When he opened up, I didn’t say, “If I hurt you I’m sorry.” That’s not a real apology. Instead I said, “I am truly sorry for hurting you.” But I went further. I learned years ago that saying I’m sorry is not enough. When I say I’m sorry I am merely telling you how I feel. (Actually, it seems many who say I’m sorry don’t really feel sorrow. You can tell by their clenched teeth!) For an apology to make a difference another step is necessary. I asked, “Can you find it in your heart to forgive me?” He had been looking down all this time. Suddenly he looked me in the eyes, reached out and gave me a bear hug.


I’ve since learned that this simple conversation brought profound healing to the man. Once I owned my responsibility for causing him pain he was finally free as soon as he forgave me.

All that his freedom cost me was a little pride. We both felt better afterwards. To think that such a simple act of humility and accepting responsibility for my own imperfections could help someone so much is truly amazing; miraculous actually.

Heartfelt forgiveness is terrific but authentic apologies are even better. Forgiveness helps the forgiver more than the forgiven, but a sincere apology helps both the giver and receiver. Better yet, it looses both from pain, judgment and bondage into a greater experience of the “glorious liberty of the children of God.” It’s worth far more than the tiny cost. Try it, you’ll like it. It will perhaps do more to keep your most important relationships healthy than anything else I can think of. 

Ready to take action?  Make a list of anyone to whom you may owe an apology. Pray over that list and ask for a safe, gracious, redemptive opportunity to own your stuff and seek forgiveness. Even if you are ten percent wrong and the other person is 90 percent the schmuck (smile), own your part of the equation. You can’t make them do what they should but you can free yourself from your own unlocked prison. A genuine apology can open the door. It's actually a relief when you stop the facade of perfection. You may even develop the capacity to laugh at yourself. If you do you will uncover and endless source of amusement.

Ken Unger is President of and founder of, where you can learn more about him and his transformative ministry. click here ,
 "Ken's new book, The Ultimate Breakthrough, goes beyond self help to self healing. You can preview it at  The Ultimate Breakthrough "

"Confess your trespasses to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed." - James 5:16a

"Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift before the altar and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother and then come and offer your gift. “- Matthew 5:24-25.


"Warning: humor may be hazardous to your illness." - Ellie Katz

 "A stiff apology is a second insult.... The injured party does not want to be compensated because he has been wronged; he wants to be healed because he has been hurt."  ~G.K. Chesterton

"An apology is the superglue of life.  It can repair just about anything."  ~Lynn Johnston


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